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Paradoxes of Christmas

Jesus Christ added humanity to himself 2,000 years ago, as he descended into our midst to establish his kingdom — a kingdom in which "he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13,14). This kingdom wasn't the kind of kingdom people were expecting, but was a kingdom where the first will be last, the greatest will be servant of all, the meek will inherit the earth. In this kingdom, disciples were made of fishermen and tax collectors and the most despised sinners could repent and turn to the king. This kind of kingdom clashes with our sensibilities because all of our ideas of greatness stem from the desire for power to misuse or apply for our own accommodations, but from the very beginning of this kingdom, from the very birth of its king, God has used unlikely and impossible circumstances to create, establish and grow the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Paradox No. 1: Birthed by a virtuous virgin

Matthew 1 shows that the virgin birth of the Messiah would be in fulfillment of a sign prophesied by Isaiah 700 years prior to Jesus' birth: "So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." The virgin birth was a miraculous event orchestrated by God so that Jesus, although he added humanity to himself, would bypass the conduit of the sin nature and retain His position as the Son of God.

Paradox No. 2: Proclaimed by humble heralds

Why would God choose shepherds to hear the angelic announcement of the Savior's birth that night? He could have chosen priests or bankers or wealthy landowners, but the humble shepherds had the privilege of hearing the angels proclaim that the Christ had been born in a manger in Bethlehem (Luke 2). The shepherds, however, were eager to spread the news the angels had told them, and ran through the town spreading the word after they had seen the baby.

Paradox No. 3: Welcomed by anonymous ambassadors

Eight days after Jesus' birth, his parents took him to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him. Perhaps they were wondering if the chief priests or religious leaders would approach them to see the Christ, but God didn't reveal that news to them; Mary and Joseph were met by two elderly people, Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25,36). God chose to work through the two righteous and just individuals, although they didn't have the prominence of the temple leaders.

Paradox No. 4: Received homage from outsiders

The Wise Men (Matthew 2) were the last on the nativity scene — they arrived after their journey from Persia, perhaps a year or so after Jesus was born. They first entered Jerusalem, the capital, expecting to find a celebration for the birth of the new king. Imagine their surprise when nobody knew that a king had been born! King Herod and the chief priests routed them to Bethlehem, but no one accompanied the wise men to see if there had been a king born — those wise men from across the desert were the only ones that came to worship God's son.

The arrival of the Christ is full of seeming paradoxes — the king being born in private in a stable next to the animals — but we would almost expect a kingdom that doesn't fit with our human expectations, because God teaches us that the type of kingdom he is establishing is a kingdom where he is the focal point, not the things that impress humanly. The things that impress God aren't the same things that impress us. The power God uses isn't the same power we think of. The things God uses aren't the same things we would use. We're incapable of comprehending his ways! This forces us to stretch beyond the things we normally employ and invest confidence in — the paradoxes of the kingdom encourage us to stretch to the eternal and infinite level — a kingdom God moves in and invites us to, but a kingdom that operates so differently than human powers. These are paradoxes for us to remember as we consider the characters of his nativity.