The Improbability of Christmas


Improbable. Certain disaster. Reversal of expectations.These words keep running in my mind as I think about Christmas.

A virgin, already betrothed but not yet wed, becomes pregnant. A righteous man, betrothed to a young maiden, finds out she is pregnant even before they get married and the child is not his. A cousin, advanced in age and already being laughed at for being barren, bears a child. Her husband becomes mute on learning that his ‘old’ wife has born him a child. And to make matters worse, the young maiden and her betrothed have to travel back to their hometown for a census ordered by the Emperor. And when she delivers her baby, it was in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn, probably filled with other out-of-towners who could better afford the surge-prices at probably the only lodging available in that small town. Then, they get crowded by shepherds who were probably seeking shelter from the cold night at they were watching their sheep out in the fields.

It is one reversal after another. Could all of these be ‘acts of God’?

Are these events impossibilities? No. As sure as the sun rises every morning, things can go awry any moment. One day we are happy; the next day we are sad. Today, things are good; Tomorrow they turn bad. Young girls get pregnant out of wedlock. Women advanced in age get pregnant. There are good men who love even when they shouldn’t. And many men go dumb and speechless when they find out the latest escapades of their wives.

Improbable? Very. And yet out of these series of improbable events begins the great story of God’s action for us men. I borrow the words of Bishop Robert Barron, reflecting on the mystery that is Christmas:

How common this is in the Bible: the reversal of expectations, the little giving rise to the great, wonderful things coming where you least expect them. The stuttering Moses speaks up to mighty Pharaoh, the slaves face down the Egyptian army, tiny David kills the giant Goliath.
And this last connection is the important one here. Bethlehem is the city of David, the city of the shepherd King. When Samuel came to that town to find the new king, he went through all of Jesse’s splendid sons and then was told there was one more, little David out in the fields. And it was this overlooked one whom God anointed.
This just seems to be God’s way, and that’s why the Messiah would be born in that tiny town, in an out of the way cave under the earth, because there was no room for him in the inn. Yet, through God’s amazing grace, great things can happen, including the birth of the Messiah.
Looking at the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem teaches us three great messages: greatness comes from smallness, never give up hope, and trust always. With those three convictions in our hearts, we’re ready for Christmas.
Because Mary said ‘Yes’ to the angel. Joseph heeded the advice of same messenger of God. Elizabeth welcomed and hailed her visiting cousin. Zechariah accepted his son and named him John. The shepherds came looking for the child. Simple acts by simple people. And the great Christmas story keeps on reverberating through the ages.
Merry Christmas!
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3 Responses to The Improbability of Christmas

  1. altruistico says:

    A great message…. thank you.
    From my home to yours; Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Joyous New year.

    May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.

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