An Ordinary Christmas: Reflections on the Gospel of Luke’s Nativity Narrative
One of the things that strikes me most about Luke’s account of the birth of Christ, and events surrounding it, are the ordinary aspects of the story. A poor couple on a road trip. The girl is probably a young teen, who recently found herself unmarried and pregnant. Her fiancé, a carpenter or stone worker, had recently stood up for his soon-to-be wife against a backlash of rumor and innuendo back home.
Now married, both are poor and are having no luck feverishly trying to find a place to spend the night. The girl is nearing her time and worn out from the long trip. The hotel clerk has no rooms open, but offers them both a place to crash for the night with some livestock in a cave. There, among the animals, the exhausted teen and her husband welcome a new baby boy into the world.
Around town, of course, it had been a very ordinary sort of day. People woke up and went to work; children went to school or played. People stood in lines for government business and registered for the census. People ate, argued, made love, danced, cried, gossiped, told stories, and went to bed.
The fields surrounding the village were filled with sheep, and that meant shepherds. Shepherds were lower working class people. They were a rude, smelly bunch, and always dirty. Even at night, they worked out in the elements, and had to be rough in order to keep wild animals away.
It was in the midst of this ordinary day and to these ordinary people that God revealed Himself. “Do not be afraid any longer. I bring you good news of Great Joy.”
It seems so strange. Sure, God might reveal Himself to a king, a philosopher, or a rabbi, but why would an almighty, eternal God reveal Himself to such ordinary people in such an ordinary scenario as a baby, a cave, a teen mom, a construction worker, and some shepherds?
But if you believe Jesus was born in the way that the best accounts tell us, then you are left with this startling thought: ours is a God who shows Himself to very unlikely people. To outcasts and misfits, to humble workers, to the forgotten.
This is why we give gifts on Christmas. This is why there is always a fuss made about the poor and disadvantaged at Christmas time. With the gift of Himself, God gave a very unique present to the poor of this world. The richness of this revelation shows us that God cares about everyone, even the lowliest among us. This is the glory of His character, and His fame.
Why is God great? Why do we glory in who He is? Because the revelation that He has provided about Himself is one of love for the unloved, hope for the hopeless, family for the orphaned, and inclusion for the marginalized. When God revealed Himself, it was a joyous occasion because He came as a friend to sinners, friend to the poor, and friend to the oppressed.
The reason the angel’s words are joyful is because we find out that God is the type of God who enters the world the same way as you and I. He is the type of God who would dare to become a baby, a child, a teenager, and then suffer betrayal as a man and die for our sake. God would come into this world poor, live among the poor and dwell with them in love.
All of us would do well to remember that in some way we too are the shepherds, the teen mom, the hard working dad, living ordinary lives. But Christmas is the time we remember the extraordinary God who surprises us by showing that He loves to dwell with ordinary people. And when we uplift the lowly, include the misfit, and comfort the lonely, we bear the image of God and pass on the gift of Christmas.
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God and the Logos is God. The Logos added flesh and we beheld his glory. The glory of the only begotten full of grace and truth.”
By James Gill