The Christmas narrative can be fairly described as a dialectical masterpiece, one that takes layer upon layer of apparently contradictory and incompatible bits of information and fits them into a miraculous whole. Contrasts and the unexpected become normal and commonplace.
The mighty angel Gabriel is sent from heaven to Galilee, considered a backwater town and some distance from Israel’s religious center, Jerusalem. A young woman with no status or renown is chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. Her betrothed marries her, willing to believe that the baby she carries is indeed of God. The two have little in the way of resources—no money, no power, no influence—with which to protect and nurture someone as important as the Son of God.
The young Galilean couple travels to Bethlehem late in the pregnancy, not by choice but by legal decree. And so they find themselves 90 miles from home when the Infant God is born. The royal birth announcement is made by an angel, not to the upper class but rather to a group of lowly shepherds. And as if the announcement of the single angel isn’t enough, he is joined by a host of angels rejoicing in the birth of the Messiah.
The newborn King—the Messiah, the Savior of the world—is the fulfillment of long-studied prophecy. Born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, from the line of David. And yet the religious experts and authorities of the day do not recognize the prophetic fulfillment. Instead, two elderly prophets proclaim the good news in the temple, and upper-class wise men from a distant land appear to pay homage.
The wise men direct attention to the baby Messiah, but not in the way they intend. A jealous ruler seeks the Messiah as well, not to pay homage, but to murder. The result is the untimely and tragic death of a generation of young children. The Messiah Himself is taken by His parents to Egypt. Egypt! The last place a Jewish family would expect or want to go….
And now, centuries later, here we are…. We have the benefit of the New Testament as well as the Old to understand those past events, and more context to understand and integrate the dialectical elements. But we, just like those who lived back then, still interpret what we read and events around us according to our personalities, personal histories, desires, and sin nature. Each Christmas season is an invitation to ponder anew the Incarnation and to pursue a deeper and truer knowledge of the Messiah so that we can better build our faith relationship with Him upon the reality of who He is. He has created us in His image; we must not make Him in ours.
And then from this humble position, we are—perhaps unexpectedly—much better able to glorify God with the angels as we celebrate God’s greatest gift at Christmas. From Christmas we look toward the Messiah’s return, which will come when we least expect it. Come Lord Jesus!