Remarkably Unremarkable

This past Sunday I mentioned in my sermon that what makes the story of Jesus’ birth so remarkable is that it is actually quite . . . unremarkable.


Luke 2:1-7 recounts the story of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem because of an edict from the Roman oppressors. The story reveals a poor couple, most likely teenagers betrothed but not yet married, an unplanned pregnancy, nowhere to go for the birth of their child, winding up in a stable for labor and delivery.


A sad story to be sure. But a story that could be told all throughout history of countless young couples impoverished and oppressed, giving birth to babies amid the muck and mire of life’s stables.


It’s not until Luke 2:8 that the story shifts to the supernatural. An angel appears at a Judean countryside where shepherds watch their sheep on a star-filled night. He proclaims good news, announcing the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord, and a multitude of the heavenly host breaks into majestic praise.


Back in the stable, however, the extraordinary had not yet subdued the ordinary. 


What are we to make of this chronicle of such humble beginnings? Why would God choose to enter humanity in such an ordinary, unremarkable way?


I believe the answer is found in approachability. God is approachable. He approached us and made Himself approachable to us. He did not come only for the powerful, beautiful, wealthy, and privileged. In Jesus, He approaches us all. 


When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to Simeon in the Temple, Simeon said, “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (Luke 2:30-31).


“`God is great,’ the cry of the Muslims, is a truth which needed no supernatural being to teach men,” writes Father Neville Figgis. “That God is little, that is the truth which Jesus taught man” (The Jesus I Never Knew, 36).


Philip Yancey tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II visiting the United States, and reporters delighted in spelling out the logistics involved: 4,000 pounds of luggage including two outfits for every occasion, a mourning outfit in case someone died, forty pints of plasma, and white kid leather toilet seat covers. She brought along her own hairdresser, two valets, and a host of other attendants. This brief visit of royalty to a foreign country easily cost $20 million.


In meek contrast, God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn King but a feed trough. Indeed, the event that divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on Him. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given” (ibid., 37).


This week as you celebrate Christmas, give thanks that the Almighty Creator of the Universe approached us in humble ways, so that humbly we may approach Him. 


***I'll be taking a week off from writing the blog next week. Wishing each of you a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the new year.