Posted in Holidays, Thinking Outside the Hive

The Absurdity of Christmas, part 2

Nativity 2

As smart as we think we are, we really don’t understand God. His purposeful plan wasn’t simply a stroke of genius, it was a calculated objective set in motion from the foundations of the earth. After all, God doesn’t have moments of brilliance. He’s brilliant all the time.

But concerning the birth of Jesus–a singular moment in history–what was God thinking?

Instead of millionaire monarchs God picked parents of poverty for His Son. As an alternative to a supernatural palace, God chose His Son to be born in a gloomy grotto among farm animals–cows, sheep and goats. Rather than a bejeweled bed, the Holy Child lay in a stone-hard feeding trough. In place of plush blankets, Emmanuel, God-with-us, was wrapped in coarse hand-woven cloths. There were no trumpets to herald the moment and no angels seen hovering over the manger. The night was silent.

So why would God choose for His Son to appear on the scene as a small, helpless baby? Why put Him through the vulnerability of being an infant–totally helpless and dependent on others for His survival? Why should Jesus have to endure the erratic and awkward season of puberty? After all, God had created Adam as a full grown man. Surely He could do the same with Jesus.

Why would God do such a thing?

May I offer three possibilities?

Humanity, Humility and Access

Adam, a human, lost our relationship with God when he chose to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so a human had to be the one to reclaim what was lost. Only a human could restore that relationship. But it couldn’t be just any human It had to be a human who understood the extent of the loss and who could be a perfect, unblemished, innocent-as-a-baby sacrifice. Sort of like an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Adam’s choice condemned man to an eternal death so Jesus came (as a human) to reverse that sentence and bring eternal life.

We don’t really understand the enormity or the absurdity of what Jesus did. He willfully set aside all His God-ness in order to experience life on earth first-hand. Basically, He said, “I’ll come down to your level because you can’t possibly come up to mine.”

Isaiah says, “Even our best works are as filthy rags.” In other words, the biggest and best we have to offer, our most majestic and mighty works, are simply a child’s cartoon on God’s refrigerator door. As beautiful and inspired as this world is, it’s a caricature compared to Heaven. Jesus volunteered to leave His majesty and glory behind to become our bridge to a perfect and Holy God. Jesus humbled Himself, even to death on a cross, to bridge that gap.

From God’s perspective, whether in a castle or a cave, coming to dwell on earth was a step down. So He invited a willing young teenager to be the mother of His Son and a simple tradesman to be His step-father. Jesus came to us with the humblest of beginnings, the lowest of the low, which brings us to access.

Kings in palaces are hard to reach. In order to get an audience with a king, one has to jump through one or more hoops such as: have an appointment, have a specific reason to meet (which must be vetted and approved by others), go through background checks, be a person of influence, be invited or be a friend of the king.

By presenting His Son to the world in a stable God was saying to us–the door is open to all. There’s no “Restricted Access” sign on the Door to Heaven. Jesus has made eternal life available to everyone.

As absurd as Christmas is from a human’s perspective, God knew what He was doing. It was the perfect solution to the problem of sin and the restoration of relationship with mankind. Let’s celebrate the first coming of Jesus and invite Him into our lives. Today Jesus is waiting for us at the manger with open arms and forgiveness for our sins. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

Because, He’s coming back again, and next time He appears…

(To be continued…)

 

Posted in Holidays, Thinking Outside the Hive

The Absurdity of Christmas

Nativity 2

Have you ever thought about how “wrong” Christmas is?

Many of us have read the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew or Luke. And most of us have seen nativity sets in homes, on lawns or in stores–a statuesque display of wise men and shepherds gathered in a stable around a simple man and woman looking down on baby Jesus. The images have become so familiar we sometimes forget the enormity and absurdity of what we’re seeing.

For over 500 years Israel had been looking for the long-awaited Messiah–the Anointed One of God–to set them free. Israel was looking for a warrior-king who would bring back the glory days of Solomon. Perhaps they were looking for another Joseph–a man of influence who became Pharaoh’s second-in-command who saved them from famine. Or maybe they anticipated a comparable Moses–a child raised and educated in the gilded grandeur of a palace who led them out of slavery. It’s possible they sought after a second David–a shepherd-turned-king hero who destroyed Israel’s enemies and expanded her borders.

Think about their history with God and how specific He was when He instructed the Israelites to built the tabernacle and, later, the temple. Measurements had to be exact, only the best fabrics were used. and the purest refined gold covered all the objects in the Holy of Holies. Priests were required to wear specific outfits (no jeans in this church) and even the incense was made to a specific formula before God would dwell there. Surely His coming King would appear on the scene with supernatural splendor.

And what about God? Wouldn’t He would want His Son to have all the luxury and pampering possible? After all, even humans want the best for their children. Surely King Jesus would be born to a royal family in a palace. Imagine the platform and influence the Messiah could have on the world. Even as a young prince He would have authority, and could reconquer the world as Alexander the Great had.

And wouldn’t God’s Son be born in an important city with tremendous fanfare and trumpets, much like the pomp and pageantry at the birth of Prince Charles in London, England? Surely, God would use everything at His disposal to commemorate the birth of His Son. After all, in a city like London–or Rome–Jesus would have instant access to thousands .

But it didn’t happen that way.

God napping when Jesus came on the scene?

Bethlehem was a tiny village of about 300 people situated about six miles from Jerusalem. Its claim to fame was it was the birthplace of Israel’s most beloved ruler, King David. But hundreds of years had passed since that event and Bethlehem had slowly shrunk in importance until it was simply another tiny dot on the map of notable places.

And if Bethlehem wasn’t obscure enough, what about the stable? In those days, stables weren’t the nice cozy barns we see as we drive through the country. They were often converted caves–damp and rock-hard. Mangers, the feeding troughs, were typically hollowed out stones. Because of poor air circulation the cave’s musty smell mingled with the stench of animals–and their left-overs. It was cold. It was dark. And it stank! This couldn’t have been a place God would choose for the birth of His Son. Surely, Mary and Joseph made a mistake.

And, speaking of Mary and Joseph– a carpenter (some include stonemasonry in the craft) and a young girl barely in her teens–both from a nowhere village called Nazareth. Joseph would never make it to the the elite status of architect or designer. He may have done a little work on the pyramids during their flight to Egypt, but you won’t find any commemorative cornerstones that read, “Built by Joe” on any of them. In fact his name isn’t recorded anywhere at all, except the Bible. Neither is Mary’s. Why would God use two “nobodies” as Jesus’ parents?

Well, you might say, at least the angels were present. But that’s not quite true either. On that famous night there was no celebratory music in the background–no choir of angels singing from above. They had already come and gone after appearing to the shepherds in the fields–not to Mary and Joseph in the stable.

Dirty shepherds in wrinkled smokey-smelling clothes from camping out in the fields were the only audience that night. The “wise men” with their gifts weren’t even there yet. They arrived later.

What was God thinking?

(To be continued…)