For Christians, Christmas is all about the story of Jesus’ birth. It is the story of the birth of the most significance person in human history; the story of the birth of the King of the universe, the very Son of God, Creator of heaven and earth. Interestingly enough, the story of Jesus’ birth that we find in the Bible is not what one would expect in the sense that the event is pervaded with elements of lowliness, rejection, humility, and weakness.
Lowliness. Jesus, the Son of God Himself, is not born to a family of royalty, nobles, political rulers, or even wealth. Rather, he’s born into a poor family from the humble town of Nazareth. Nazareth is not a centre of human glory or cultural excellence, it is of little significance in the world, let alone first century Palestine. In fact, there’s a point in the gospels when someone heard that Jesus is from Nazareth and asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV). The birth of Jesus reminds us that God chooses to do his redemptive work in the world through those who are of little consequence. It is through the marginalised and disenfranchised that God’s healing hand rests on a wounded world.
Rejection. When Mary and Joseph arrive at the inn looking for a place to stay as visitors in Bethlehem, they are turned away. What’s especially shocking about this is that Mary is near being in labor. Who forbids a bed from a woman in labor?! Mary and Joseph’s rejection at the inn foretells Jesus’ own rejection as the King of the Jews. “This isn’t the kind of king we wanted.” The story of Christmas reminds us that it is through the rejected ones of the world that God brings love into the world.
Humility. Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth because the Roman government required it for tax purposes. Mary and Joseph didn’t resist or rebel. Rather, they humbly acquiesced in humility. They obeyed the order. This is the mother and earthly father of the rightful ruler of the entire cosmos, let along first century Palestine! If anyone has a right to say, “No!”, it is those of true power and position in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, however, is one of humility. They humbly went, trusting God. The Christmas story reminds us that God’s purposes will not be thwarted by human agents, no matter how powerful they may seem to be. This is how peace comes into the world.
Weakness, I think, is the centrepiece of the story as it ties together the other three elements (lowliness, rejection, and humility). The story comes to a culmination with the birth of a baby. What does a newborn baby represent if not weakness? The story of Christmas, like the story of the Cross, reminds us that God’s power is manifest in weakness. Unlike King Herod, Pilate, and Caesar, God doesn’t need to threaten, coerce, or manipulate in order for his will to be done. People obey God not because they fear him, but because they love him. This is power in weakness. Christmas reminds us that it is through weakness that God’s light shines in the midst of darkness.