Christmas will be here soon. Where has time gone? I hardly feel ready for it. I do have most of the gifts, but our tree isn’t up yet. We will probably be sending the Christmas cards out for Epiphany, and it certainly seems like a scramble this year. Is this what Christmas is about? Certainly, we don't want to seem Scroogy. All those expectations and so little time. If we aren't ready, does it really matter because Christmas comes along anyway? Sometimes, it comes along in a very unexpected, expected way.
Main passage: Luke 2:1-20
Secondary passage: 2 Timothy 4:2-4
A sudden infant cry follows a laboring mother's groanings. She cuddles her baby and wraps Him in cloths to keep Him warm on a chilly early morning in a desert town. This could be a scene almost anywhere in any desert town, but this was not just any town. It was Bethlehem. It was not just any time, it was during the census when the town was overflowing with people. It was not in a cozy bedroom she gave birth. It was in an animal stall in the straw that this baby came. The cloths she used were probably rags that were already there or cloths they tore from garments they had with them on the long trip. By the flicker of an oil lamp they could see His tiny face. It might seem like an ordinary child born like any other except this was the Messiah, the Savior of the World. Mary knew who He was (Luke 1:29-33). Joseph knew who He was (Matthew 1:20-21). But Israel was not expecting the Messiah to come in such an unexpected way.
Israel should have known. They were told in the Scriptures at the Temple. What did they not understand about the law and the prophets (Luke 16:15-17)? Instead, they were expecting a military deliverer to overthrow the controlling gentile government to free them and make them their own nation again, a nation blessed by God. Instead, the Messiah was born to a teenage girl and a man who was not his biological father, a common carpenter. Certainly they hoped for a fine military man to come gallantly onto the scene with weapons drawn and an army following. Instead, God gave them a baby. A baby born in an animal stall sleeping in the feeding trough as His parents slept, after a long night of labor, on the straw next to His bed. This was not what they expected.
This seemingly ordinary moment was a notable moment in history. Important enough God sent a massive angelic choir which would make the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sound like a amateurish group of kids in a school musical. He didn't send the impressive choir to kings and rulers, but to a a rag-tag group of shepherds who tended their smelly bunch of sheep at night (Luke 2:8-14). He sent these simple working men to proclaim the message they heard from the angelic choir. Keep in mind, Israel had not heard a message from a prophet from the Lord for 400 years. Instead, He sent a small band of shepherds to tell the people in Bethlehem what they heard from the Angel and the heavenly choir. It certainly was not what Israel expected, but should have already known. They weren't ready, but it didn't matter because the Messiah was born anyway.
Are you ready? It doesn’t matter because Jesus has already come. He came to a world without hope, a people who hadn’t heard from God through the prophets for 400 years, in a very unexpected way. He was celebrated in an elaborate way, a massive choir of heavenly messengers to a tiny grungy group of smelly shepherds in a field in the middle of everyday work.What an odd way to bring a small child to a poor carpenter’s family, His maternity ward an animal stall wrapped in rags with a feeding trough for a bed. The world wasn’t ready for Him, but it was the best time. We don’t have to be ready because He is already here in the middle of our hurry, scurry, craziness. Christmas will still come without the tree, without the lights, without the nativity displays, without the presents. Just as the shepherds were caught by surprise in the middle of their day-to-day work, we will be surprised when we least expect it. But we should expect the unexpected. Will you be ready for the opportunities God brings to you to share the hope you have in Jesus with those who have no hope this Christmas season?
May God bless you.