The Christmas story is filled with all kinds of unlikely, unexpected twists and turns. The sleepy town of Bethlehem, a teenage virgin, a stable, a crowd of animals and shepherds, a crib—are we sure the one promised to reign and rule, the one coming in might and majesty, the one promised to save and shepherd his people has chosen such a strange entrance?
Yes! We must step back and realize that Christmas is as much about God’s showing work as it is about his saving work. The nativity story is a divine autobiography. God is telling us about himself. He is revealing to the world just who He is and what He is like. The reason the story is so unexpected is because the majesty of our God is unexpected.
The nativity helps us recognize that the glory of God is seen in humility, passion and generosity. It is glimpsed in the paradox of the “Ancient of Days” taking his first breath as a new born baby. Augustine in one of his Christmas homilies beautifully captures the majesty of God in the paradox of the incarnation as he explores the Creator of all knit together in Mary’s womb.
The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born In time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day [set aside] for His human birth. In the bosom of His Father, He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly Mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day. The Maker of man became Man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Grape, might be crowned with thorns; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die. To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who ‘existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits. Begotten by the Father, He was not made by the Father; He was made Man in the Mother whom He Himself had made, so that He might exist here for a while, sprung from her who could never and nowhere have existed except through His power.
Remember, the greatest gift of Christmas is always getting more of God. It is about glimpsing more of his majesty and wonder. May he grant us the joy of the angels on that first Christmas day, the gratitude of the Shepherds who welcomed into the world and the persistence and wisdom of the Magi to seek him with our whole hearts. Merry Christmas!