No-one knew too clearly what was happening as the events surrounding the first Christmas unfolded. To be honest it looked like poor planning when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. “God wants us to carry his Son and can’t even arrange for a hotel to have a vacancy?” Eventually space was found with donkeys and hay in a stable with manure droppings carpeting the floor and mice and rats running the gauntlet frantically scrounging for a morsel to eat. No matter that the Bread of Life was about to be delivered and would grow to challenge, anger, and save a people who insisted on re-baking him every year with a cookie-cutter as an eternal gingerbread baby.
Shepherds arrived stinking of sheep and caked in mud. They’d been invited by an angel appearing to them in the fields. Who’d have thought they’d be at the top of the guest list? Except of course it makes sense when we remember that God has a special affinity for shepherds and identified himself with them. Maybe God the father was so moved at the birth of his son in human form that he wanted someone to kneel by that manger as he would have loved to do. His heart was melting with incredible emotions of longing, tenderness, and perhaps even trepidation as he thought of what lay ahead for his baby boy. What father wouldn’t want to hold and cradle him close to his chest and whisper words of love into his newly formed ears giving promises that he’d never let him go?
Winding their way through the dangerous threats of Herod came the wise men from foreign lands who’d been following a star for weeks to this place in Bethlehem. They were traveling on the fringes of their reason and intellect, barely grasping why they’d embarked upon such a strange journey. Except this time their reasoning was following a revelation that had arisen in their spirits, or was it their hearts? They couldn’t for once even explain it very well – other than they were searching for a king whose name was not Herod. They were so sure of this fact they had to courageously deflect his admonitions and questions when summoned to his paranoid throne. There was blood in the air that night as a small power-obsessed dictator tried to outwit God and foil a rescue mission that had been planned from the dawning of creation.
Christmas sums up the paradox we’re faced with when we encounter Jesus. He is radical, unpredictable at times, relentless, disturbing, unafraid, and unexpectedly humble in his demeanor. There’s a tug of war within us; we want to make him in our image and lifestyles… “This is how I’d do it if I were God,” we declare. He resists and wriggles from our hands that press him into a mold far too small for his personality and presence. He’s come to rock the status quo rather than be cradled in a manger. He’s born to make all things new and set captives free, to defeat the source of sin and darkness. His mission was to restore a lost humanity into the embrace of their creator father from whom they’d been estranged for so long they’d become conditioned to regard him as their adversary. Someone to be feared rather than embraced.
December’s adorned with sweet smelling advent wreaths, gifts, shopping, lights, carols, and Christmas pageants. Nothing wrong with those traditions, as long as they don’t lose sight of what is at the heart of the season. Advent is incomplete -only half a word; ‘ADVENT-URE’ completes the picture. God entered into a world that’s broken, dark, and boringly predictable in lifestyle. Christmas highlights his ADVENT-urous son, Jesus. “Follow me,” he says, “If you dare, and live a little!” 🙂
And here’s Silent Night…. not really about a baby but expressing amazement that God would humble himself enough to stoop to our level in restricted humanity – that we might join Him in His Kingdom on earth as in heaven…. and much more than we could ask or imagine. And what a price He’d pay…… The miracle and wonder of Christmas!