An Advent Reflection: Why this way?

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 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; followed by a life of wealth, power and cocooned luxury with every whim gratified and every need met.

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 an ‘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. Like an inoculation – we have just enough Christmas to make us immune to the real thing.

Christmas is all about the triune God doing things his way. And his ways are definitely not our ways. They are better and grander and more grace-filled than we can begin to imagine. They culminate in the astonishing good news of the self-giving eternal Word made flesh, so that whoever believes in him might have life in his name.


[This Advent Reflection was written BB – before blogging. So it makes its debut on FaithinIreland, tho I wrote it a few Advents ago …]


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