The Astonishing Humility of Christmas
God does a lot of things -- many of them seem strange to our admittedly limited perspective. Without a doubt, the single most unsettling, irrational, illogical thing he has ever done is come to Earth as a baby! If God came to Earth as a fully-grown man, we might understand that a little better. If he came to Earth as an angel, a ghost, an apparition or a disembodied voice, it might make more sense or fit our expectations a little better.
But a baby?
He was totally helpless! He couldn't feed himself or talk or walk or control his own bladder. And have you ever been to a birth? There's blood and sweat screaming and mucous flying everywhere...and that's just the dads!
The whole process is uncomfortable, to say the least. It's unseemly. It's unsanitary. As much as we may not want to admit it, birth -- for all of its wonder and amazement -- is a yucky process.
And this is how God chose to enter the world.
He could have chosen any way he wanted -- something miraculous and exceptional, regal and majestic. But he chose the ordinary way.
Worse than that, he chose the peasant's way. He could have chosen a major city with doctors, nurses or midwives and their sterilized equipment. Instead, he chose a barn in a backwater town with nothing but a carpenter's rough and calloused hands to usher him into the world. There were more animals than people looking on.
We would understand if royal officials were there eagerly awaiting his arrival. But no one important showed up save a few dirty sherpherds -- oh, and some strange men from the East several months later.
It doesn't make much sense to many people -- the God of the universe humbling himself in such a way, emptying himself of so much for so little in return. But the Bible leads us to believe that this is exactly the way God wanted it.
A young couple, miles from home, are unable to find a decent place to sleep. They are forced to spend the night in a stable when she goes into labor, where she delivers a baby that has already caused so much pain and will cause even more in his attempt to bring true peace, true healing, true joy. She wraps him in strips of cloth to keep him warm as her husband makes room in the feed trough. They are both unaware that, even now, magi are headed their way from afar and shepherds are receiving the shock of their lives in the form of a heavenly chorus.
This is our God, this tiny baby with fists for hands and squinting eyes, depending on and trusting in two scared newlyweds for his survival. He risks everything in order to rescue the people who have never been able to keep their promises to him.
The storyline doesn't make much sense to us because it is we who are so out of synch with the way things ought to be.
This is an excerpt from my latest book, The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible.