“Christmas commemorates God’s most uncommon decision: to come commonly.” So writes author Max Lucado so well, so truly.
Long ago it occurred to me: one of the things I like best about our Lord is his extraordinary and utterly amazing love of the ordinary, his deep delight in the utterly common.
Our society doesn’t understand that at all. We disdain, disregard, disrespect, look down on, trample into the dust, rumble right over, despise—the ordinary, the common. We make much of, fawn over—yea, verily, we worship—all the wrong things, all the wrong people, all the wrong places. To receive our worship, and thus our attention, our money, our time, our lives . . . To be esteemed by us as successful, worthwhile, important . . . all you have to do is be big and rich and loud, glitzy and proud and pompous.
In our shallow society, “Mom and Pop” stores are “Wal-marted” into oblivion. Sweet and already beautiful little children are painted up and thrust into “children’s beauty pageants” to satisfy the ugly need of their parents to have the “most” beautiful baby or child and thus win big! Smaller churches with a mega-quality of relationship that most mega-plastic-Piety Marts can’t buy at any price are made to feel even smaller. After all, nothing that’s not big or loud or glitzy is worth anything, right?
Wrong. Fatally so, and blind. But it’s no new mistake.
In the first century, Rome was big for sure and all about power. Caesar rolled over in bed after some dream about falling off a “fiscal cliff” and decided that “all the world should be taxed.” Again.
Religion was big in Palestine. If you want religion that largely ignores what God values, you can go for the consumer approach our society prefers, or you can always go for a do-it-yourself “truest of the true” approach Pharisees in Palestine, and in all ages, all places, adopt, looking to obtain salvation the “old-fashioned way,” working to “earn it,” disregarding God himself, all the while despising little people who don’t measure up.
But when God sends his Son into this world, it’s not to powerful Rome or pious and holy Jerusalem, it’s to lowly Bethlehem. It’s not to sit on a throne like Caesar’s but to be laid in a common as dirt feed trough. Pharisees, sure they get religion right and completely trusting in their own goodness, are passed over by Heaven for shepherds who know they’ll never even smell good, much less “be” good. But the shepherds see angels while the Pharisees are too blinded by rules to open their eyes and see how often what God calls most holy is what we disdain as most common.
When God came at Bethlehem, he came “commonly.” That he still does is among the greatest of miracles and mysteries. And it’s “wonder-full” indeed.
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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.