Merry (Upside Down) Christmas!
To keep things fresh this Christmas and to try prevent soul-suckage from gift shopping, I’m trying to see the Christmas story through a variety of lenses. So I spent some time this weekend thinking about the upside down elements of the Christmas story we remember every year. Here are some observations along those lines.
First, the most obvious: The long-expected Messiah who was going to topple the secular government and save his people shows up as a baby.
You can almost hear history building in excitement as the Messiah’s genealogy unfolds over time. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David. Everything crescendos, the anticipation builds until no one can stand it any longer, and then…a little diaper-soiling baby is born.
That’s the climax of history? A little baby? Totally unexpected.
Second, who gets the first news that this baby Messiah had arrived? Who do God’s own angels announce this to? Is it the esteemed religious leaders or the political power structures in the Jewish or Roman worlds? Nope. It’s the shepherds.
Shepherds got the news first. Shepherd were the guys who were so scruffy and disreputable, all they could do was herd animals on the outside of town. And they find out about Messiah coming before any of the religious types, before any of the rich and powerful types. Totally unexpected.
And finally, who are the first to worship this little baby Messiah? The gospel writer, Matthew, indicates it was the Magi, the ones we call “the three wise men.” But who were the Magi? The Magi were not Jews, they were foreigners. They were outsiders. They were also astrologers. The source of the wisdom they claimed had to do with their expertise in understanding the alignment of orbiting balls of dirt. Are you getting this? The first people to worship Jesus were pagan astrologers!
What is going on here? This is not how the Messiah is supposed to show up. This is not how God is supposed to work.
Everything about Jesus birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection are unexpected. It’s as if his life was testifying, “You think you know the heart of God, but you have no idea. Open your eyes wider. Open your hearts wider! Salvation is here and it’s right in front of you!
So lay down your tightly-held ideas of how you think God should work, and receive from Him a better way: the way of healing, the way of reconciliation and restoration, the way of meaning and purpose, the way of of hope and belonging – the way of Jesus.”
I want to open my eyes wide this Christmas season for more signs of God’s unexpected love. I want to see beyond the tradition I’m used to and discover both new and ancient ways that God’s heart is being revealed. Who knows? I might find them in my next door neighbor or on Facebook or at the mall or even – no, it’s possible! – at church.
What other upside down elements do you see in the Christmas story?