We’ve run through the cast of characters. Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds – none of them are obvious choices to witness God coming to earth. Neither are the sheep for that matter, who must have been just as dazzled as the shepherds. Or the animals in the stable: ‘Why are we eating off the floor? Who put that wailing baby in the food trough?’
But none of this is random. Nothing here is accidental.
Jesus could have been born anywhere, at any time in history. If we were to optimise this operation for maximum chances of success, we’d go for something completely different. Maybe 21st century Sweden – great healthcare, generous maternity and paternity rights, good educational system. Statistically, there’s a very high chance of the God-child reaching adulthood.
We’d definitely go for today. It’s never been easier to reach an audience. If Jesus were here now, he’d have all the tools of global media to help spread the message. Feeding the five thousand would have been all over Instagram!
It happened the way it did because God was being consistent with everything that had come before, with the people of Israel and the prophecies. And it happened the way it did because God wanted to show us something.
What do we learn from it? That with God, there are no outsiders, no unlikely characters or forgotten places. This is for everyone, for all creation and all time. We are all welcome. We can all find ourselves in the Christmas story.
If we find ourselves welcomed into the Christmas story, how will we pass on that welcome to others this year? What can you do to show hospitality? Is there an unlikely character you could include in your Christmas?