This meditation was originally delivered as the Christmas message at Covenant Love Community on Sunday, December 18, 2004.
This is a Christmas message, so let’s start right where we should, I Corinthians 1:27.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (KJV)
Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, (The Message)
So here’s the story so far. Created in God’s image and given charge over paradise, mankind fell and was banished from God’s daily presence. But… But, God said that the seed of Eve would crush the serpent’s head. Prophets through the ages spoke of a coming deliverer, a great king who would come from the line of David and redeem God’s people. Centuries of rise and ruin, freedom and occupation, prosperity and exile, but always the promise of deliverance. Then, the prophets went silent… and for 400 years the people waited, expecting and longing for this messiah who would throw out the oppressors and restore Israel’s glory.
But no one ever expected what God had in store. Nobody expected a baby would turn the whole world upside down. Nobody expected an aging priest’s wife to have her first child in her old age. No one expected a virgin would be pregnant. (You can guess at the chatter around Nazareth at that little bit of gossip. “Did you hear about Mary? Joseph’s little ‘virgin’ is pregnant.”) No one expected shepherds to be the first to hear the news of a Savior’s birth. Nobody saw three kings from the east blowing into town to worship the newborn king and then leaving by the back roads.
The angels didn’t even know what the Father had in store, and when you read the story of Jesus’ birth, you can feel the pent up flood that gushed out when the sky suddenly filled with heaven’s host. They had already been terrified at the appearance of one angel, but the shepherds must have been completely leveled when all the angels of heaven suddenly erupted into “Glory to God in the Highest. Peace on earth and good will to men!” Centuries of hope deferred, of desire and longing were suddenly wiped away with the birth of a baby to a poor woman of now questionable reputation. They didn’t know what He was doing, but they knew that God was suddenly, powerfully and miraculously on the scene.
Nobody expected a young carpenter, a less than reputable working class man with calloused hands to wander out of the desert picking up lowlife followers along the way. They didn’t expect a man who spent more time with the drunkards, the sick, the poor and the outcast than the rich, the religious elite or the powerful. No one expected a deliverer redeemer who would shun violent uprising and a forceful rebellion to talk about turning the other cheek and loving ones neighbor. Everybody expected strong and powerful. No one imagined meek and mild. Nobody expected Jesus.
And that’s the point. Jesus came to us and said, “You’ve got it all wrong. You’re flying upside down. The last are first. The weak are strong. The poor are blessed and the blind can see.” The Messiah wasn’t here to throw out the Romans. And if you can hold the stones for just a moment, He wasn’t here just to save our souls. He was and is here to open our eyes to God’s kingdom among us, to a different way of living, to God’s way of love.
Tony Campolo tells the story of a schoolteacher who served several students in her small one-room school, including one kindly referred to as “special.”
When it came time for the Christmas pageant, this child wanted desperately to play a speaking part. The teacher knew that he couldn’t remember lines well, but she came up with what seemed like a solution. He could be the innkeeper. When Mary and Joseph knocked at the door of the inn, he would open it and twice say, “No room!” She thought he could handle this, but just in case, she had someone at the ready prompt him.
The night of the Christmas pageant all went well until Mary and Joseph got to the door of the inn. Mary knocked. Our little friend opened the door and with his strongest voice said what was expected of him: “No room!”
Mary responded, “But, sir, it’s cold. Have you no place where we can stay? It’s freezing. I’m going to have a baby, and unless you help us, my baby will be born in the night.”
The boy stood there and said nothing.
The prompter nudged and whispered, “No room! Say, ‘No room!’”
The boy turned to the prompter and blurted out, “I know what I’m supposed to say! But she can have my room!”
I know what I’m supposed to say. But she can have my room!
I know what I’m supposed to expect. But she can have my room!
I know what I’m supposed to do. But she can have my room!
The birth of Jesus is the first clue that God’s way of life, his kingdom is different than anything we had ever imagined. The birth of Jesus to a poor Judean couple, in a backwater town, in a stable, surrounded by animals and all the smells that come with them tells us what importance the Father places on wealth and standing and propriety. The fact that the birth of the Savior was first announced to shepherds, an outcast and lonely profession, tells us for whom the Father’s heart truly bleeds. And you know what, we are all outcast and lonely in His eyes, so His attention and His love have been focused on us. Dallas Willard writes that “The overarching biblical command is to love, and the first act of love is always the giving of attention.”
So, this week, as you reflect on the birth of Jesus, think about the greater context of His coming. It’s all related. The birth, the living, the message, the dying and rising. It’s all part of the whole. It’s all connected. They are all part of one story. The Father even uses the birth of the promised son to illustrate the way of His kingdom.
What does Jesus birth tell you about God’s kingdom?
What does it tell you about whom He values and loves?
What does it show you about living in the Kingdom of God?
And before we close, I want to echo a friend’s heart. This week, when you reflect on the birth of Jesus and when you pray this Christmas, remember those who have no one to care for them, the voiceless and powerless and hopeless. For these He came.
I’d be a liar if I told you I was sorry to leave you with questions for the holidays. I am not sorry at all. I pray that as we reflect on Jesus and the situations of his birth that the Holy Spirit will expand our understanding of God and His kingdom come. Amen.
©2004 David A. Peck and G.L. Baldman Media, Ltd. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to print and share this writing with others with proper citation of authorship. Use in any publication requires written permission prior to use.