Why this way?

A reflection for Christmas (apologies if a bit long)

You might have expected a major press conference announcing his impending arrival, followed by a media frenzy: rolling 24 hour news and global network coverage; talking heads discussing the significance of the upcoming event for months beforehand. Everyone in Bethlehem waiting with baited breath.

What you got was a private message to a group of dirty sheep herders with reputations for dishonesty; a revelation to some mysterious pagan star gazers with weird beliefs, and a few days later in Jerusalem a couple of harmless Old Age Pensioners being let in on the secret before they died …

Why this way?

You might have expected a mother of wealth, class and social standing; with royal robes and royal blood; a lady of substance, pampered and protected, familiar with pomp and ceremony. Suited perfectly to the job.

What you got was an obscure teenage girl from a Galilean backwater, a peasant’s daughter with no experience of life, limited education, and few prospects in a man’s world.

Why this way?

You might have expected a palace; splendid, impressive and imposing. Tastefully decorated, lined with gold and purple; all possible comfort provided; first class medical expertise on hand to look after this invaluable new life. An entrance into the world truly fit for a king.

What you got was a lean-to in a Palestinian 2 up 2 down semi; an animal shelter, with cracks in the walls, filled with the acrid smell of urine.

Why this way?

You might have expected a national holiday, public celebrations, messages of goodwill from kings, queens and emperors, the rich and the powerful, politicians, religious leaders and innumerable ordinary people.

What you got was an enforced journey of 90 miles for a heavily pregnant woman; registration at the command of a distant dictator; a death squad sent at the command of a vicious despot; and refugee status in a foreign land.

Why this way?

You might have expected a childhood of privilege, honour and respect. Being prepared for a life of wealth, power and cocooned luxury. Accustomed to instant obedience and every need catered for.

What you got was the mundane routine of small village life for 30 years. Learning a trade. A life spent without owning a home, leaving behind not one written word, never travelling outside the small region of Galilee and Judea. Only experiencing luxury in the palaces of his accusers.

Why this way?

You might have expected a mission aimed at political power; speeches whipping up emotion; the relentless pursuit of popularity; threats of violence to liberate the land; pragmatic opinion poll policies; nationalistic rhetoric to gain the crowd’s loyalty.

What you got was ‘love your enemies’; ‘turn the other cheek’; ‘bless those who curse you’; ‘whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ ‘I have come to give my life as a ransom for many’.

Why this way?

You might have expected a messiah to lead his people into glorious triumph over the occupying Roman forces. Victory parades; ticker tape celebrations; adoring crowds, songs and speeches; then monuments and memories.

What you got was a coward’s secret betrayal, a kangaroo court; brutal undeserved violence, torture, mockery, public humiliation and a slow agonising death

Why this way?

You might have expected a ‘I told you so’ tour after the resurrection; a shaming of enemies; a surprise visit to Pontius Pilate perhaps; chat shows; a global tour; book deals; celebrity status; TV interviews before astonished millions.

What you got was a revelation to an unimportant woman in the garden Not being recognised by two friends out for a walk in the country; having to convince others who could not believe their eyes; low key appearances to the disciples and to some others – before disappearing all together, leaving behind only the stories of his followers.

Why this way?

Well maybe God wants you and me to be surprised, shocked even, at Christmas.
Maybe God is bigger and stranger than we think
He does things that we don’t expect
He is unpredictable.

And the irony is that Christmas is so predictable. Slade, the Pogues, Bing Crosby and bad music by Cliff Richard. Awful jokes in crackers, and useless presents. Too much food and drink. Like an inoculation – we have just enough Christmas to make us immune to the real thing.

Christmas is all about God doing things his way. And his ways are definitely not our ways. They are better and grander and more remarkable than we can begin to imagine. They are the astonishing way of the eternal Word made flesh so that we might have life in his name.

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6 Responses to Why this way?

  1. Pingback: Why This Way? « Amphibologia

  2. Rob Grayson says:

    Hi Rick,

    I read your post after following a link on Jesus Creed. Thanks for stating so powerfully what I feel about the awe and mystery of Christmas, and of God.


  3. Sue Van Stelle says:

    I’m going to take a stab at why. Because God was trying to make it agonizingly clear that it’s about the power of love, not about the love of power.

  4. naturalborncitizen says:

    Awesome words. – Leo Donofrio

  5. John H says:

    By using the ordinary he acheived the extraordinary!
    The most famous carpenter this world has ever known, the essence of pure humanity to whom we all owe our deepest gratitude. Amen.

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