Unexpected, Yet Perfect
With the bite in the evening air and snow landing softly on the streets and trees, it is easy to imagine the silent night that set the stage for the birth of Jesus. And when reading the story from the comfort of our own homes in a completely different time, we often read this story with wonder and awe, thinking it was completely perfect, exactly the way it was supposed to be.
The thing is, to everyone involved, the birth of the Savior was completely unlike anything they expected. When God promised a Messiah would come to save His chosen people, the people thought God meant the Messiah would save them from the oppression they had been facing since their covenant with God began. They expected a royal king, a strong warrior to lead the revolt against their captors and bring freedom to the people God had chosen as His own in the very beginning (Genesis 17:4-8).
Imagine the confusion, the disbelief, and the wonder Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds must have felt when God told them that this baby – born in a stable in the middle of the night with no celebration or fanfare – would be the Messiah they had been long-awaiting. How many times as Jesus was growing up must Mary have wondered how her little boy would save an entire nation. How many times Joseph must have looked at his adopted son and wondered when he would leave to lead an army. Did the shepherds wonder, as they gazed at that newborn’s face, if they had traveled all that way to see him for nothing?
I think if I were there, I would have wondered if God had gotten it wrong, if He had made a mistake in thinking this small child would have the power to overcome the hopelessness that loomed over the Jewish people. How could this be God’s plan?
Have you ever asked that very question about your own life? When the circumstances of life are confusing and unlike what we imagined, it is our human nature that makes us wonder if God is there, if He’s listening to us, and if He got it right. If there’s one thing the Christmas story teaches us, it’s that God usually works in ways that don’t make any sense to us.
But we know from the rest of the story that, even though Jesus’ birth wasn’t at all what anyone had expected the birth of their Savior to be like, it was exactly right and set the stage for something amazing to happen, something much bigger and more life-altering than a simple revolt against Rome. God’s people expected salvation from the dictation of Rome; Jesus brought salvation from sin. They expected freedom from oppression; Jesus brought freedom from death. And they expected the Messiah to bring peace and hope in their religion, but Jesus did something even more amazing: He brought them peace and hope in their relationship with God.
I’m really glad God doesn’t work in the ways I think He should, that He doesn’t fit into the very small box that I try so often to put Him in. If He did – if He only met my expectations instead of far surpassing them – I wouldn’t have the abundant life He deeply desires for me to have (John 10:10). By working in ways outside of what I can even imagine, God reminds me that He is God, and when He turns my desperate circumstances into a life even more full than I could have produced on my own, I can’t help but stand in wonder of the love that He pours over me.
There truly is something wondrous about the story of Jesus’ birth. But it’s not the silent night or the angels singing that make me pause to consider the awe of that night; it’s the idea that God stepped into the world in the most unexpected, yet perfect way and changed everything for the people He loved. And He didn’t stop there. God wants to step into every circumstance of our lives, whether good, bad or completely broken. He won’t be confined to the box we place Him in or settle for merely meeting our expectations. When we don’t understand what He’s doing and we wonder if He made a mistake, we can find peace and hope in knowing God will not let us down and He will turn whatever we’re facing into something good, exactly the way it is supposed to be.