Paradox enhances any story and the Christmas story is paradox at its best. Maybe unexpected is a better word, as in Who would have thunk it? or Say what?! Lots of people were waiting for the messiah but his entrance wasn’t like anything they were expecting.
A few Christmas surprises:
The glorious becomes an embryo. Remember Moses? Remember how in the Old Testament God gave him a glimpse of His Glory, but only a glimpse, because if Moses were to see all of God’s glory he would die? Well now all that glory is condensed and concealed in the most hidden of places—Mary’s womb. Vulnerable. Dependent. Entering the world, like everyone else on the face of the earth does. Inexhaustible glory encased in tiny human form. But that’s not all…
A virgin gets pregnant. In terms of the unexpected, we could stop right here. An ordinary girl (with extraordinary faith), engaged to an ordinary man, plucked from her ordinary life and dropped in the center of the glorious. Oh Mary, how your head must have been spinning as you yielded to the unexpected will of God for your life!
The shepherds get to spill the news. Of all people! The lowest on the Jewish ladder, a shepherd’s testimony didn’t even stand up in a court of law and yet they were the first to know. And, and, they got to be the ones to tell everyone. And see the baby… first! Unbelievable. Talk about the tables turning. The angels said the birth of Jesus is “good news that will bring great joy to all people.” The nobodies of society, the overlooked, entrusted with the best news ever. You bet they went back to their flocks rejoicing.
A King born in muck. Where there are animals there is manure. And stench. And filth. And flies. And no clean linens, no room service, no call nurse button. But there is a trough, and Joseph and Mary procure a swaddling cloth, and there is God’s presence, thick and rich and sustaining, and there are angels rejoicing like never before and slacked-jaw shepherds bowing down in utter adoration. Yes, it was a stable, but it was a holy stable.
And as Jesus grew, from infant to adolescent to man, the surprises continued. He came to do his Father’s will and, in doing so, said and did things that went against cultural norm and the expectations of the religious and, in doing so, he shook up everything.
Come thou long expected Jesus…
Yet we expect the unexpected. Because God never seems to do things just how we expect him to. Praise Him for that.