In the days leading up to Christmas, I have been pondering how God infused humanity with divine love.
This infusion of love happened in the most vulnerable of circumstances—an unmarried woman became pregnant, Joseph had the courage to take her as his wife, their arduous trip to Bethlehem, no room at the inn and giving birth among the animals. It happened to ordinary people who were living ordinary lives.
The shepherds were the first to hear the news, lowly shepherds. God chose to reveal His greatest glory to working-class people—not royalty or rich people, but poor people, marginalized people, people who smelled like the sheep they lived among.
The fact that God chose these particular people and circumstances makes me think that lowliness and vulnerability are highly esteemed by God. God prefers lowliness.
As I pondered the mystery of God coming to us in these humble surroundings, love took on a different look. That first Christmas turned societal order upside down, placing first those who seemed to be last. That Christmas, the lowliest were the first to receive the message of God’s love breaking into the world.
Christmas love seeks out those who are marginalized and lets them know that they are the most important to God, that God chooses them.
Christmas love honors two things we might find difficult to even look at, let alone esteem—poverty and powerlessness. Who wants to be poor and powerless? Who wants to even think about their brokenness and fragility?
Yet, the message of Christmas seems pretty clear—God chooses those who are lowly; Christmas invites us to consider our own lowliness—our own weakness and insecurity.
This is the gift of Christmas—not expensive presents or lavish parties, but humility and vulnerability; that is where God touches us with divine love. God turns things upside down by blessing those very parts of ourselves we try to hide.
As I thought about Christmas, the word fear kept coming to me. Fears keep us from accepting those we see as different, because we can fear being judged, being hurt, being taken advantage of or even being seen as different. I wonder if Mary and Joseph were afraid of the shepherds who approached them and their newborn baby—in the way we might be afraid of being approached by someone who had been living outside.
Christmas assures us that God prefers to meet us in our vulnerability, our fears and insecurities, our poverty and pain. There God can infuse us with divine love so that we can be open to pain and suffering—our own and others.
Christmas love is accepting and forgiving. It is abundant, and it offers true freedom and peace when we can let go of our fears and expectations and honestly admit our dependence on God.
To be humble rather than proud; to be weak rather than strong; to love rather than hate; to trust rather than fear; to hope even in dire circumstances—let the Christmas celebration begin.