I know this will make me sound like Scrooge, but Christmas is a ridiculous holiday.
I’m not talking about the big jolly guy in his Coca-Cola red suit or the stampedes of Black Friday shoppers desperate to add more stuff to their collection of, well, stuff.
I’m talking about the original, biblical story itself.
The story about wise men, shephards, and a newborn baby that makes the day “holy.”
The story we tell our children every year without giving it much thought.
But we should give it much thought. Because it’s an absolutely ridiculous, unbelievable story.
It’s the story of a random teenage girl from nowhere who got pregnant out of wedlock while engaged to another random nobody. We’re then told that this obscure teenage girl from nowhere is going to give birth to God. As is in the God of the entire universe.
A girl…from nowhere…is going to create the Creator in her womb. And where is she going to give birth to this incarnate God? Not in a hospital or even the back bedroom of her parent’s house, but out in the country in a backwater town surrounded by animals. Too poor to afford the sort of refinements befitting a would be king, this young girl and equally obscure husband then wrap their God baby up in whatever cloth they had laying around and stick him in a food trough.
Gross. But also SAD!
But it only gets more ridiculous from there.
Who shows up to be the first ones to pay homage to this would-be King of Kings?
Day laborers, filthy and no doubt reeking to high heaven from having spent all of their time around farm animals.
Then in a twist completely out of left field, actual kings from the other side of the world show up bearing obscenely lavish gifts to give to a child they’ve never met and then in one of the most shocking events of the night, bow down to this newborn baby child of poor young people from nowhere.
And then, just when you thought the madness was at an end, the story takes one more final, ridiculous twist as we’re told the parents of God incarnate, the “King of Kings” who is going to rule over all over creation are forced to flee their homeland and live as refugees in a foreign land because this newborn Emmanuel isn’t even strong enough to stand up to a regional despot.
Poor obscure teenage refugees flee with God incarnate in the form of a baby after having kings submit to their child while day laborers played the role of his heralds.
And it’s this family of refugees through whom God is supposed to save the world.
That’s the story of Christmas!
Again, call me Scrooge, but it’s an absolutely ridiculous story, especially when you stop to think about the actual message that is being conveyed.
It says that the all mighty, all powerful God of the universe – who could choose any form or any person God so desired to be born as – chose to find strength in weakness by being born in the most helpless form imaginable: a baby.
It says the person the Creator of the universe chose to be the vessel of God’s redemptive grace in the world wasn’t a mighty white knight riding in to save the day. It was a poor, Middle-Eastern teenage girl because, we’re led to believe, what God desires most isn’t confidence and privilege, but a willing and humble heart
This story says that even though this God in flesh is supposed to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in this God’s kingdom, place of birth, socio-economic status, and income level don’t matter.
By surrounding the holy family on all sides with animals while making the first bed of the divine a lowly food trough, this story would have us believe that all of creation is involved in God’s redemptive work, not just those of us who walk on two legs.
With poor day laborers as the first heralds of the good news, this story tries to convince us that even the least of these have a critical role to play in the kingdom of God.
When kings come to bow down to a poor, obscure baby, this story wants us to believe that even the strongest powers and principalities will be brought low before this child from nowhere.
And when the family seems to finally have things going their way only to be cast out as refugees, this story proclaims that the poor and the weak, the outcast and the marginalized are at the very center of God’s redemptive work in the world.
But the most ridiculous part of all?
The most absurd, preposterous, unbelievable part of the Christmas story?
It’s all true.
The poor and the weak? The outcast and the marginalized? The obscure and unimportant?
The kingdom of God is made of such as these.