Guest Blogger...Nicholas J. FedeleNOT WHAT WE EXPECTED
EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED
Today I want to brief you on the subject of underwear as Christmas presents. This is a hot–button topic with me. In the rememberance of the Christmases past of my childhood, receiving unmentionables posing as valid gifts had made me so bitter that even to this day I still break out in a cold sweat whenever I’m given a gift wrapped in an irregular box.
Now that I am a grown man and a father however, I have begun to see the advantage and wisdom of always having clean, fresh underwear readily available. You may perhaps be involved in an accident that renders you unconscious and requires an emergency trip to the hospital. Or you could get your clothes drenched in a rainstorm, not realizing that your white khakis (or blouse, if you are a woman) become transparent when wet. This becomes clear when you arrive at the office for work. In both cases, clean undergarments are essential.
So while I cringe to think of them as Christmas presents wrapped with pretty ribbons and bows, I have reconciled myself to the fact that mama was right and wise and thoughtful. Some gifts were not what we expected, but exactly what we needed.
Now that the year has come around to December again, it’s got me thinking a lot about the story of the Incarnation and how the coming of Christ in many ways was similar to receiving underwear for Christmas… Not what we expected, but exactly what we needed.
Being an unmarried, pregnant woman in Mary and Joseph’s day was a capital crime. And it was certainly not the ideal situation Joseph envisioned for the beginning of his marriage with Mary, his beloved. Between angels waking him up in the middle of the night, pestering him to take Mary as his wife and a Roman census necessitating the long and arduous trip to Bethlehem, not to mention finding no room at the inn once they got there, and having to hole up in a stable with the animals, well the whole thing was just so… weird! In fact, it must have affected Joseph so strangely that in every account of the birth of Christ in the gospels, Joseph never says a word, he just does what he’s told to do like a man too overwhelmed to do otherwise. Shellshocked is the term, I believe. Though obedient and noble, he had to be thinking to himself, “This is not at all what I expected…”
But through his sacrificial love for his betrothed, his unwavering obedience and his heroic nobility, prophecy was fulfilled. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea just as the prophets foretold. This has been a sign to the world throughout the ages that He was the promised one, the Messiah they had been waiting for.
I am convinced that the lowly circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus serve at least two purposes. First, the birth of the Christ Child in such mean circumstances was a tactic that God used to get in ‘under the radar’ of the enemy. If Jesus had come as he deserved, announced as King, Satan would surely have attacked the Child and His family immediately. He knew the prophecies and he was ever watchful.
However Satan would never have imagined that God would come to Earth as He did. Born of an unwed teenage peasant girl, witnessed only by barn animals and shepherds and laid in a watering trough. It was not at all what the devil expected, but exactly what was needed.
More importantly, the lowly birth in the manger, attended by animals and the lowest of society, the shepherds, demonstrated to us that God was now fully a man. Subject to everything men endure, He was able to relate to us and understand the human condition in a unique way, even for Him. And Jesus in return showed us what the Father was like so that we could come to know Him, understand Him, relate to and love Him in a whole new way as well.
So the gift of Christmas was Emmanuel, God with us. And He came not wrapped with royal robes, but in swaddling clothes. Kind of like nice warm underwear. Not at all what we expected, but exactly what we needed.