Today we get to read the beginning of the Christmas story, because the organizers of the reading plan wanted to put it in its most significant place in the reading of Revelation: right before the allegory of the woman and the dragon. Our church down here in Florida just recently finished their Children’s Christmas play, which I watched because, of course, my daughter was in it 🙂 It focused on dispelling some particular myths surrounding the traditional “Christmas story”: the fact that there could’ve been more than 3 wise men (we’re told how many gifts there were, the number of wise men is just tradition), the angels “singing” (the Bible actually just says that they “said” “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”). However, it came back to emphasizing that the important part of Christmas isn’t these minor details that aren’t recorded for us, but the fact that God came down to become a man and to live among us.
As the production stated, we don’t know for sure that December 25th was “Jesus’ birthday”. I was struck by the significance of the fact that we have no idea what day Jesus was born: in fact, scholars argue about what year it even was. It emphasizes the obscurity that God chose to introduce Himself into the world. People challenge God by saying, “if He exists, why doesn’t He make Himself plainly visible?”: the fact is, even when He did come to earth, He didn’t make a big fuss. That’s not His style (at least, at this stage in history. Things change when we get to His second coming). I’m amazed by His humility, to come in such a way that His birth (probably the most earth-altering event that had ever happened up to that time) went unrecorded and almost completely unheralded, except to a few smelly herdsmen outside the city.
Think about it: if you had no Christmas story and were just writing a novel: making up a story in your head about God coming to earth, how would you have it happen? I would probably have Him spontaneously appear in the desert, a handsome, mysterious, muscular 25 years old, perfect in beauty, ready to conquer the thrones of the world. Maybe He would take advantage of a natural disaster: step out of a tornado that destroyed the White House, or a crack in the earth that swallowed up the Kremlin or something. Maybe He would descend from the sky in a shining, iridescent ball, like the witch of the North in Wizard of Oz. Nobody could make up the Christmas story that God’s given us: it’s too mundane, too common. If we hadn’t heard it all our lives, we wouldn’t accept it as real. Why would God be content with such humility and obscurity?
Let’s remember: He accepts those who come to Him: He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. Let’s consciously seek Him out this season.