Humble Christmas

In a word, Christmas is about humility.

Consider again the circumstances of Jesus’ birth: the scandalous pregnancy, the low-income family, the stable, the manger, the shepherds. These details seem warm and wonderful to us now, all dressed up in the hues and hominess of Christmas. But think for a moment about the raw reality of these circumstances. How have your family and friends handled the announcement of an unwed mother in your acquaintance? Have you ever smelled a barn? Can you imagine used feed troughs in the maternity ward at Adventist Hospital? The humble circumstances of the Savior’s birth should probably feel more weird to us than wonderful, distressing more than enchanting. What family—what newborn baby—deserves to be treated like this?

All the more when we consider who this newborn baby was. Mary’s baby was the heir to David’s throne, the hope of Israel, the seed of Abraham, the prophet’s promised Messiah, the Son of God Himself. The most surprising aspects of Christmas are not the signs of the supernatural—the star, the angel choir, the impossible birth to a virgin. No surprise that angels sang His birth; the real surprise would have been if there were no angels, no star, no supernatural pregnancy signifying this baby’s supernatural identity.

Why not have it all glorious: angels announcing and Caesar bowing and a noble family receiving and a palace surrounding this holy child? Why are the details of Jesus’ birth—and His life, for that matter—so embarrassingly humble?

His mother Mary knew why. She wasn’t surprised by the extreme humility displayed in Jesus’ birth. To Mary, it was no mystery that Jesus came under such humble circumstances. She sang: “The Lord has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk 1:52). In other words, this is the way God has always done things: through nobodies, quietly, inconspicuously, humbly. This is the reason for the stable, the shepherds, and the manger. God rejects the proud and exalts the humble.

This is the message of Christmas: the Lord of the universe humbles Himself to be born as a helpless baby. God’s way of choice is the way of humility; His person of choice is the low one.

I wonder, if we were there 2000 years ago, would God have found our hearts humble like Mary’s? Would He have done great things for us, or are we the proud whom He resists?