Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So this is Christ-mas ...

You know what has always intrigued me about the Christ-mas story (check it out in Matthew 2 and Luke 2)? The circumstances.

Jesus' parents were unmarried, His genealogy was pretty spotty with some very sordid and questionable characters in it, and He was by no means a wealthy man or from a wealthy family. Then these smelly, lonely, probably somewhat socially incompatible shepherds come to see little Baby Jesus. I don't imagine that Mary, after having traveled so far to register for the census and giving birth in a cave, would have wanted ANY company, let alone that of some socially outcast shepherds. That's not right.

Then not even 2 years after He was born, Jesus and his family had to run for their lives not just out of town, not out of state, not even to just a neighboring country - but to a different continent! Can you imagine how expensive that must've been? And then God provided for them, but He did it in the strangest way!

I mean think about it: strange men come to visit, saying they saw a star in the sky that they followed all the way from Asia to Israel. Come on, seriously? A star in the sky that you followed for thousands of miles? Surrrrrre, Wise Guys.

And the gifts? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What kind of gifts are those for a baby!? Seriously?! I know there were no Babies-R-Us stores over there nearly 2,000 years ago so the Magi couldn't have bought a stroller or playpen or something - but I'm sure there were some shops where they could have found more suitable gifts for a toddler than metal, spice, and oil. What about a toy tool set (since His dad was a carpenter), or some toddler size clothes, or something useful for a toddler?

This is all so wrong!

But then I think ...wait a minute. Maybe this is all right.

Maybe those pungent shepherds as guests at Jesus' birth were the perfect gusts. Think about it - if Jesus really did come to "seek and to save the lost" like Luke 19:10 says, then what better guests than outcast shepherds to show the world that Jesus is not about perfect looking church people, but is about everyone no matter how clean and sharp, nor how filthy and imperfect.

And maybe gold, frankincense, and myrrh actually were pretty great gifts after all. I imagine when God warned Joseph not to go back to Bethlehem but to go to Egypt instead, Joseph must've thought "ok God, I know this is You telling me to do this, but how on earth can I afford to leave everything and move my family to another continent?" I imagine him sitting in despair yet confidence - despair because he doesn't know how to obey, but confidence because he knows this is Father God who has given him this command and the Father will provide for him.

And then ...Joseph looks around and remembers gold ...frankincense ...myrrh. Those things were not the cheap, crappy gifts that we give each other today. You couldn't get those thing last minute at Walgreen's; these were some seriously valuable gifts we're talking about here. God has already clearly commanded what Joseph needed to do, and with the gifts of the Magi He provided the means for Joseph to obey.

Maybe, even though this doesn't make sense in a human perspective, it really is right. Maybe God, since He is God after all, actually knew what He was doing!

So Christ-mas. Wow, it's so much more than cute little baby Jesus in a strangely uncomfortable pose, cuddly farm animals, shepherds, girly looking angels, and the three wise guys.

It's about God, coming down unexpectedly into our mess, making the first move to restore us, and guiding every step of the way since.

The circumstances of Christ-mas amaze me. Shepherds ...wise guys, frankincense, and myrrh ...a seedy heritage - somehow it's beautiful because all those things form an incredible tapestry that shows off the love, compassion, sovereignty, grace, and power of God.

"Don’t be afraid!" he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! - Luke 2:10-11, NLT

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