Christmas: God Celebrates the
Miracle of the Commonplace
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the
Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be
afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be
to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a
savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ ” Luk 2:8-11
The Humility of God
As we near this Christmas celebration I want to dwell deeply on the amazing simplicity of this most amazing of all stories. I do not know your circumstances, but I am sure many of you are alone, far from loved ones at this time. Others will be in financial difficulties, as the “festivities” swirl around them, wondering how to meet the bills that are piling up. Some I know have lost their homes, and others, jobs–leaving bleak future prospects. You may feel unloved, unappreciated, and unimportant. It may be that your failures, personal shortcomings, or hardships only add to a sense of loss during this time when we should all be celebrating. It is especially for such as these that I write this offering this Christmas. I pray that God may open our eyes to the greatest of all miracles, and how it touches all of common life, with all its limits, with God’s infinite grace.
What is God saying to us, what lesson was He giving to the world, in the circumstances of our Lord’s humble birth? All true perfection that is found in this broken world is discovered in the providential working of a holy and perfect God, working an infinite and eternal plan. From the very beginning, man was made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). With the loss of the fullness of that image, due to the fall of Adam into sin, God’s redemptive plan began to work for its fullest restoration. That restoration and “refreshing” (Act 3:19) would come through the “seed of the woman” (Gen 3:15), “Who is Christ” (Gal 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ came to bring salvation, justification to sinners, and reconciliation to God. But He also came to illustrate what that restored “image of God” looked like in daily life.
And so in the birth of Christ we see the miracle of “The Word became flesh”, combined with the countless other miracles of grace in the commonplace things of life. The eternal King came into a poor peasant family. His birthplace was not in a palace, but as an outcast in a stable, with a manger for a bed. The annunciation of His birth was not made in the Temple, nor the schools of the learned scribes, but in the fields, to shepherds who were themselves outcasts of the religious elites of the Temple service.
The God of Small Things
What kind of God would choose such a setting for the birth of His son, the Savior of the world? What kind of deity would ignore the entire religious system which for nearly 1500 years was dedicated to His name, in favor of “the off-scouring of the world” (1Co 4:13)? What strange plan would send angelic messengers and the choir of Seraphs to rough and rustic men of sunburned face and calloused hands? As I think on these things I can only say that it is our God, who loves the unloved, who shuns the so-called great and powerful in favor of the weak and forgotten. It is the true God, breaking down all our fabricated images and idols of beauty, power, grandeur, influence, and wealth. It is He who created us in His image, returning in the glory of simplicity, the power of meekness, the wealth of humility, to begin a work of the “restoration of all things” (Act 3:21). He wanted “the eyes of [our] understanding [to be] enlightened; that [we] may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).
Should we not be astounded that the God of all creation, to whom the angels sing in everlasting chorus, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8), should count as His longed-for inheritance those whom He has saved from sin and shame? Did not Christ remind us of this when He spoke to His Father in the Upper Room, repeatedly speaking of us as “the men whom You have given Me out of the world” (Joh 17:6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 24)? How remarkable that God truly “raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the beggar from the dung-heap…that He may seat him with princes” (cf.1Sa 2:8; Psa113:7). As Mary declared in her song, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Luk 1:53). Was it not clear that He came to “turn the world upside down” (Act 17:6) when His first major discourse spoke of the “blessed” condition of all who came to Him from the commonplace of daily life and its struggles (Mat 5:3-12). It is from this context we get the phrase, “the salt of the earth” (Mat 5:13).
The True Hidden Treasure
Now what is the meaning of all of this? What practical applications can we find from the essence of the story of the birth of Christ? We can begin by stating without hesitation that God loves the simple things and the common people of this earth. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “God must love the common man, He made so many of them.” But beyond this, it is an inescapable truth that God redeems not just “the foolish…weak…base…despised…nothings” (1Co 1:27-30), but also their very circumstances. It is “out of weakness [we are] made strong” (Heb 11:34b). It is in the very midst of affliction that we can find joy through His Word ( 1Th 1:6; Jam 1:2). Our gifts and offerings to Him are not dependant on what we have, but rather are magnified by what we have not (2Co 8:1-3; Luk 21:3). It is not by belonging to some great congregation, but rather by being part of a small despised group that we prevail (Jud 7:3-7).
How can I put this in the most simple and useful way? It would be to urge each of us to look for the true miracle of the life we have in Christ in the face of our husband/wife, in the presence of our children, and in the opportunity to give a word in season, or a helping hand to some downtrodden soul, or a cheery smile on the street. If we will allow the Spirit of God to fill us with the spirit of the first Christ-mas, we will find that God still delights to make His home among the small and humble, and in every heart that will give Him entrance by faith and humility. May each of us be found a fitting “stable” for His incarnation into our lives at this time, and from this time forward. Our world is bankrupt, far more spiritually than financially. On this historically dark and cold Christmas Eve, may the Spirit of Christ bring light and love and hope to you and yours. For the Christmas story is not of the past, but is of an ever-growing spiritual renewal and reconciliation that will continue until His kingdom comes. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Shamgar had an ox goad
David had a sling
Dorcas had a needle
Rahab had some string
Mary had some ointment
Moses had a rod
What small thing do you have
That you’ll dedicate to God?
Wishing you all the most blessed Christ-filled Christmas,
Gene, Nan and the Cunningham clan