If I had to select several words to communicate the heart and essence of the Christmas story, it would have to be words like: simple, common, lowly, obscure, humble. On the other hand, there are many contrasts – a majestic King presented to society from a dirty feeding trough, an unknown hand-maiden chosen by the Creator of the Universe to bear the Savior of the world, and the first recipients chosen to hear the message being the lowly shepherds.
Fast forward to the present. One of the major profundities of Jesus coming to Earth to live among us are these extreme contrasts. It is supernatural. We struggle to place our finite and rational minds around it. The media and the world prefer to mention it as the “magic of Christmas” in secular movies, dramas, and presentations. Likewise, the enemy has had no problem casting popular and attractive figures and fables to play lead roles in the distracting and opposing drama. There is Santa Claus, reindeer, evergreens, snowmen, lights, and the latest – the prying and very over-empowered elf-on-a-shelf.
If I just mentioned one of your favorite holiday objects or traditions, take a deep breath before you begin your passionate and defensive reply to me. None of these traditions are in themselves wrong. No, it’s the sometimes misguided priority we give to them over the coming of the One in who split time in half. If we really comprehended and appreciated the importance of Jesus’ birth, nothing else this world now offers or could ever create would ever come close to competing for our time and attention during this season.
Sometimes the most profound things are right in front of our face, but go unnoticed. We cannot see the forest for the trees, as they say. We’re looking for a loud blast and announcement, while our Almighty God is speaking in a still, small voice. The Jews were looking for a powerful new ruler to sweep in and crush the Roman Empire, yet God sent His Son in humble, obscurity as an innocent, dependent baby.
One Christmas, while at my grandfather’s house, I ventured out one night to his barn. I sat inside, alone, on a bucket, in this dark, quiet place. I thought, this was most likely the same environment Mary and Joseph found themselves in the night of Jesus birth. I began to sing Silent Night in barely audible, almost whispering tone. It was such a obscure, hidden and seemingly insignificant moment, but the longer I sang in worship to our King, the more the place evolved from obscurity to as if I were seated in the center of the heavenly choir! But this scene doesn’t fit our typical expectations does it? Next Christmas, try selling tickets to people that provides them a couple of hours alone in an old barn or cave to mediate on the story. People will likely give you a funny look. It makes no sense. But neither does the circumstances of Jesus birth.
Sometimes quiet can be loud. Sometimes a man stands in crowd but feels alone. Sometimes finding simplicity can seem so complex. You will never fully appreciate the gift that the Father gave you in Jesus unless you are first very intentional to shut out off the distractions, the complexities, and the noise the world has attached to Christmas. You will hunger for the simple message of Christmas in direct proportion to your daily walk and hunger to know Christ. In other words, as the hymn says, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory of grace.”