**This will be my last post this week. I hope you and your family have a very, Merry Christmas. May you know the full blessings that only the birth of our Savior can bring. See you Monday!
“God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something,” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We are wowed by power and prestige. We give deference to wealth. We assume that rich people are smarter and better informed about…well…everything than poor people. We expect more from people we deem powerful than those we don’t. We look to befriend people we think will give us some sort of social or vocational advantage. We do this because we make judgments based on what we can see. This works if some sort of worldly success is our goal. When it comes to the kingdom of God, though, all of this gets turned on its head.
The general expectation of the Messiah among the people of Israel was that He would be a political and military leader. They had been conquered and dominated by one foreign people after another. Other than a period of about 100 years before Rome came to town, Israel hadn’t been free since before the Babylonian captivity. They had a national memory of the years of David and Solomon and it had no doubt grown more glorious over time. The various prophecies of the Messiah restoring the glory of Israel brought their minds to exactly one place: He was going to make things like they were.
Because of this, everything about the Messiah they could find in the Scriptures had been reinterpreted through this lens. There’s a reason when the wise men arrived from the East that they went straight to the palace in Jerusalem seeking the newly born king of the Jews.
There’s more. When Herod received this news, he went straight to the scribes and priests and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. Their answer: Bethlehem.
Think about that. They knew where the Scriptures said the Messiah was to be born. They knew and they weren’t doing anything about it. Why? The text doesn’t say, but let’s carefully fill in the historical gap with a bit of speculation.
Bethlehem was a tiny town. It was one of those places that nobody noticed or cared about. It was not the kind of place the Messiah would really be born. There’s a reasonable chance they told Herod about Bethlehem because they didn’t really believe the Messiah would actually come from there and were trying to protect Him from whatever he was planning to do.
And then, once Jesus and His family had returned from Egypt, they settled in Nazareth, another backwoods hamlet that wasn’t the kind of place from which the Messiah would herald. When Nathaniel, one of the disciples, first heard that this potential Messiah was from Nazareth, his reaction was derisive: Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
Throughout His ministry, Jesus clashed with the religious leaders of the Jews because of His insistence on spending time with the least, last, and lost of the culture. He kept going to places and spending time with people who weren’t the kind of people with whom the real Messiah would engage.
Everything about Jesus turned the way we normally do things and think about people over on their head. And this was exactly as God intended it. Jesus’ humble birth was something that only God could have done. Had He played into the way we think and operate, we could have claimed the credit for His activity. Our sinful nature would insist on it. And if we claimed what He did, we would have remained separated from Him which was exactly the thing He was aiming to erase.
So, God worked out His plans in ways that we never would have expected and never would have claimed. His plans require us to turn from ourselves and rely solely on Him. It feels wrong when we get started, but life will be the reward every single time. Jesus came in humility, and when we receive Him in kind, life will be the reward.