Posted by: mikenicholsblog | January 16, 2011

the unexpected

So you have arrived at the time and place to announce the single greatest event the world has ever seen.  And you have just been told that it is your job to decide the who, how, and where it will be done.  Take a deep breath, and think.  It must be BIG.  Whomever, however and wherever it gets done, it needs to be BIG.  The announcement simply must match the epic nature of the event itself.

If someone was to make an epic announcement in our modern context, they would be smart to choose a 60-second spot during the Super Bowl to do it.  What air time is more valued than during the broadcast of the Super Bowl?  In Luke 2, we find ourselves confronted with God’s choice in making that epic announcement.  And while the “who” and “how” were quite spectacular, the “to whom” and “where” were anything but.

God summons his angels to earth to appear and proclaim the birth of his Son in full splendor.  I can’t even imagine the sight of that amazing announcement.  But I can imagine being someone to whom the angels came.  Because as BIG as angels are as messengers of the good news, shepherds are about as not BIG as you could get as it’s recipients.  I can relate to the insignificance that the shepherds amounted to in ancient times.  As members of society, they were outcasts, existing out in the margins, far away from the important social or political centers.  The angels seem like an obvious choice, but wouldn’t it have made much more sense to involve a crowd in Jerusalem, or even halftime of an event in the Roman coliseum?  Not for God, that is not His way.

A study of scripture will confirm a consistent pattern when it comes to the ways of God.  The same God who chose shepherds, chose a baby as the form his Son would take in coming to earth.  Not a fully grown Samson times ten, but a simple, vulnerable infant.  In choosing an entrance into the city of Jerusalem as the Messiah, our Lord did not ride in on a royal or commanding horse, but a lowly, young donkey.  And in bringing salvation to all people, He did not author a military takeover or epic battle, but rather a lonely, brutal road to death on a cross.

This pattern of the ways of God is not limited to the story of Jesus’ birth, life and death.  We see it in Joseph’s pit, Daniel’s den, the three friend’s furnace, and the choice of a young shepherd boy to confront a giant.  We see it in the declaration that we must have faith like a child, and that the meek will inherit the earth.  We see it in the choice of a chief persecutor to be the messenger of the gospel to the wider world.  Time after time, occasion after occasion, God turns the apparent truth of things on its head to reveal His truth, and accomplish His purpose.

Sometimes we become so familiar with something that we miss the awe and the significance, the complexity and the mystery of it.  I thank God for the Spirit’s prompting to pause a while at the event of His announcement to the shepherds.  In it, I was reminded of the consistency of the unexpected when God is involved.  And was challenged to never close myself off, and always open my eyes and heart when He brings the unexpected my way.

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