“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
We all feel quite inadequate at times when it comes to helping people’s problems. When you walk the city streets and you see the homeless person sleeping on the footpath – or when you’re driving and you see the collectors at the lights and try not to make eye contact – can your donation really help them? Or maybe you feel guilty because you say you can’t afford to give them anything but you’re on your way out to a restaurant.
Or when you help out a charity by sending a donation and they keep contacting you or pass on your details to other charities who then start to ask you as well. You feel like not giving anymore because you don’t want to receive all those requests. When we match all the problems in the world or even the problems in our local area, we can feel as if there’s really not much we can do – and sadly it means we end up doing nothing. And then we have all the world’s problems and wonder what we can do about it. Wars – drugs – global warming – to name only a few that are daily in our headlines.
The Christmas story really is a very strange story when you think about it. It is the announcement of the Prince of Peace coming in the midst of a very violent world. The announcement of the Prince of Peace however contradicts our assumptions of what would need to happen if someone were to bring peace to our world. If you were God, would you really have sent the Prince of Peace in the form of a fragile child? Would you use an unwed young mother to bear this Prince of Peace? Would you allow this Prince to be born in a barn? The Shepherds are told by the angels to go and see how God is going to solve all their problems – all the problems of their people – all the problems of the world – how?
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The Christmas story is full of people who weren’t expecting God to come to earth as a baby. Mary wasn’t expecting to have a baby who would be the Son of God. When Joseph was told that Mary was pregnant – he wasn’t expecting that! No one was expecting God to send a baby. When King Herod was asked by some passing Wisemen from the East about a new born king – he wasn’t expecting that! A baby king would have to be born of a King – and he was the reigning King. The Wisemen came bringing special gifts for a prince – but they didn’t arrive at a palace as they might have expected. They knelt before Mary’s baby with all humility and worshipped him – they saw the Prince of Heaven sitting in Mary’s lap – they weren’t expecting that! The Christmas story really is an unusual story, an unexpected way for God to react to the people and the world.
Evil is a very powerful existence in the world which goes back to the days of Adam and Eve when they chose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God could send angel warriors to deal with evil, just as Jesus said when he was arrested and Peter want to respond with violence: Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But no, God sent his son – not as a warrior prince but as a baby whose mother will be a peasant girl who will give birth to him in a stable. No one was expecting that.
Why did God choose this unexpected plan to save the world? God is all wise and all-knowing and he chooses a plan that places the Prince of heaven in the arms of a teenage girl who had no child rearing experience and no family in Bethlehem to help her. He will be so small, tender, and vulnerable. Why did God choose this plan above any other plan? For God there was only one plan that would work. It was a plan that grew out of his love for all people. The way God chose to rescue us from our own destruction was to send his son to become human just like us. No one expected that! But that’s how God works. God of the unexpected.
Jesus’ numbers grew but also opposition to his teaching grew. His enemies had him arrested, tortured and he died on a cross. And just like before, his disciples didn’t expect that!
Before he dies he doesn’t curse his enemies but cries out for all to hear, “Father forgive them”. No one expected that! Women will go to the tomb where Jesus is buried and they are greeted by angels who tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead. The disciples didn’t believe them because they weren’t expecting that! But this is the plan of God to save the world – from Jesus’ birth at Christmas, to his death at Easter and then to the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
No one expected God to save humanity from the violence and trouble of the world by placing his own Son as a victim of the violence and trouble in the world. God’s ways are always unexpected from the moment of Jesus’ birth to his death and resurrection. The angels who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph and then to the shepherds excitedly told about the good news that brings great joy to all people. The Saviour is coming into the world, his name is ‘Jesus’ because he will save people from sin and death and give eternal life to all who trust in him.
Christmas shows us that God does some very unexpected things and works in some very unexpected ways. In the same way, expect God to work in unexpected ways in your life. Maybe God will challenge you with new directions in your life; Maybe give you peace and hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation: Maybe he will challenge you to restore a relationship; Maybe he will challenge you to reach out to a person you would never have reached out before; Christmas is a time where the unexpected happens. It’s where God turns hopelessness into hope. It’s where God turns despair into Joy. It’s where God defeats evil with good through the birth of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
May God bless you Christmas time again this year as you celebrate God’s love revealed in a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.