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: