The angel Gabriel showed up in a blaze of glory and announced to Mary that the Savior of the world would be arriving and she would be His mother. Gabriel said that God chose her specifically because she was “favored among women” (Luke 1:28). Mary was humbled, honored, and declared, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)
Fast forward nine months. After a very long, uncomfortable ride on a donkey, Mary was having said baby in a barn; surrounded by cows and sheep and a lot of smells pregnant women don’t appreciate. Hay stuck in her hair as she tried in vain to get comfortable between contractions. She was far away from the familiarity of her own bed and the experienced support of any other woman. Joseph was present, but I suspect that wasn’t the first choice for either of them.
I wonder if Mary felt favored among women in that moment. The Savior was arriving, but did Mary ever imagine it would be in such an undignified way? I wonder if she was afraid. I wonder if, as she realized her child’s first crib would be a feeding trough, she thought, This is not what I expected.
It was a common response to Jesus throughout his life. He surprised and bewildered his friends, his enemies, and even his family with regularity. Why should his birth be any different?
If you’ve reflected upon your own life and said this is not what I expected, you are not alone. Our circumstances can be vastly different from what we’d want or hope for. A lot of things are not supposed to be as they are. People aren’t supposed to hurt one another and we aren’t supposed to mess up our lives and death shouldn’t be any part of anything we’ve got going. But those things are here.
Which is exactly why Jesus arrived in his unexpected, ingloriously glorious way.
Jesus came so you can be returned to the essence of what your soul longs for and needs most. The birth of Christ means that you can find peace, contentment and crazy JOY in spite of all the ways life surprises and terrifies you. When you trust that the undignified birth of a little boy in Bethlehem was to redeem and reconcile you with your Creator, your relationship with God is no longer fragmented and torn. There is no more distance between you and the One who loves you most.
Jesus dismantles our narrow idea of how we imagined life should be and gives us Himself instead. We cannot plan our path nor be certain of where life will take us, but we can expect, count on, and trust that he is with us in every moment of it.
Jesus immerses you in His abundant grace so that when you are everything you aren’t supposed to be and your world is everything you never expected, you are steadied by his presence; bringing unexplainable peace and the promise of a future that offers irrepressible hope. This Christmas, may our souls magnify and rejoice in the boy born in a stable, destined to save all mankind, who defies all expectations and exceeds all glory.