CHRISTmas…If you were God…
What if you were God and wanted to reveal yourself to the world, knowing the awful disparity between God and the people of planet earth, what would be your first act? How would you choose to come into this world?
1. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BORN IN A BARN?
What an unlikely place for a King to be born. This is the last place a caring husband would want his wife to be in her ninth month of pregnancy. The Inn was not a five-star hotel. It was simply an enclosure where a traveler could find shelter for his livestock at night. Some inns had rooms for travelers , but there was no food and no host. “Travelers brought their own food; all that the innkeeper provided was fodder for the animals, and a fire to cook” (Barclay). The town was crowded so there was no place for Mary and Joseph to stay. The innkeeper was not cruel or inhospitable, he simply had no rooms left. As far as we can determine, this poor couple had no friends or relatives in the city, they were all alone. In purely human terms, imagine, nine months pregnant, ready to deliver a child, and you find yourself in these primitive conditions. I’m not sure we can even imagine how bad it was. Animals, animal droppings, feeding troughs smeared with the dripping of the cattle. Have you ever been in a cow barn? A pigpen? A chicken coop? The stench, the filth, it’s more than a human can bear, and we avoid those unpleasantries like the plague!
2. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BORN IN AN OBSCURE VILLAGE?
Bethlehem was not a famous city. A bigger, more influential city would certainly have improved His image. There were no sufficient hotels or convention centers. There were no well-staffed maternity hospitals. But royalty is royalty no matter where it is born. The sophistication of His parentage will surely show through.
3. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE COMMON, UNIMPORTANT PARENTS?
We understand now about the virgin birth, but when Jesus was born, there were whispers of “illegitimate, bastard!” And the stigma of having conceived out of wedlock. In biblical times illegitimate children were excluded from the congregation to the tenth generation. There were rumors being spread that Mary was pregnant by a soldier stationed near Nazareth.
What if one of the young girls in your church got pregnant? When the pastor asks who the father is, she responds. “The Holy Spirit.” Do you really think the church would accept that explanation? I was asked by a friend to come to help a church problem. One of the leading young ladies in the church was pregnant, her father was a deacon. The uncaring congregation had voted her father out as a deacon and were asking that the entire family be voted out of the church. Unwed mothers, it seems are still shunned by the church.
When Jesus was a child, I’m certain that the whisperers asked Him why He didn’t favor His father. The Pharisees laughed at the claim that he was a child of the Holy Spirit.
If you wanted the world to know that you are God in the flesh, you would not like, “Father unknown” on your birth certificate. How utterly vulnerable God made Himself to the human race. This kind of birth would never impress anyone!
Not only that, the family into which God chose to be born had a very checkered past! In Jesus’ case, the beloved purity and much protected Jewish heritage had been compromised. There were people hanging from His family tree! Even Gentiles! Ruth a Moabitess; Rahab, a Canaanite and a prostitute; Jacob, a known cheat; Judah, a womanizer; David, an adulterer and a murderer; and Solomon, whose many wives and mistresses turned his heart away from God.
Even His name was common, “Joshua,” meaning “Jehovah is Salvation.”
4. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ANNOUNCE YOUR BIRTH IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE TO A BUNCH OF NOBODIES?
If God had consulted me, I would have recommended that He make the announcement with a little more flair. I would have suggested that he stand on the moon with a microphone and several bzillion watt speakers and broadcast, HELLOOOOOO WORLD! THIS IS GOD! Or if He chose to go with a choir I would suggest that He would at least get the National Cathedral Choir performing in the Marketplace in Jerusalem, with satellite radio and a world-wide TV hook up that could be heard by the entire planet. But he didn’t ask me, so He chose a desolate spot, with a just small bunch on shepherds to hear.
What if you had been part of a great angelic choir, chosen several thousand years before to announce the birth of the Messiah? For years they have been building a great stage in the sky for this incredible announcement. You’ve been rehearsing, anticipating the day you can show your talent. The Gabriel says, “He is born!” “You’re on choir.” The curtains are pulled back and you see your audience, a small band of shepherds. What a letdown. Then someone shouts, “OK, who was in charge of promotion and advertising?”
Shepherds were not the best communicators. They only have sheep to talk with. And they were not the best messengers to carry such important news. They did not have the best reputations, they tended to be a little light-fingered with other people’s property. They were not particularly welcomed in town, and the townspeople didn’t put much stock in their word.
The shepherds have visited the manger, they have seen the baby Jesus, Now they are running through Bethlehem, yelling, “Joshua is born,” Joshua is born!” Listen to the conversation in the town, “What was that?” “Oh, some crazy shepherds shouting something about some kid named Joshua being born.” That’s all we need another Joshua in this town.”
5. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE REALLY ORDINARY LOOKING?
Jesus looks were so ordinary that he often lost Himself in crowds. Even after three years in the public eye, Judas had to identify Him to the soldiers. His appearance was not intimidating to anyone. Everyone felt at ease with Him. His looks did not separate Him from those around Him. The Prophet Isaiah describes Him. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2).
6. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE IN NAZARETH?
The moral and religious reputation of Nazareth was so bad that Nathaniel’s response when meeting Jesus was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:47).
Beverly Hills is a beautiful community. Our children used to go trick or treating in Beverly Hills. This city is filled with rich people, mansions, expensive cars, and exclusive shops. New York City is sometimes referred to as the capital of the world. If I wanted to impress the world, I would have a home in Beverly Hills and offices in New York City, with a private jet to commute between both.
I would never want anyone to know I was from Buttonwillow, or Weed, California, Oatman, Arizona, Plain-ole Plano, Texas or Gassaway, West Virginia.
7. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE POOR?
“Whoever has the most toys wins,” is a bumper-sticker we often see. The acquisition of material things is the primary drive of most of today’s world. Staying ahead of the Jones’ is the motivation of much of Western civilization.
Jesus never owned more than He wore on His back. No one, would ever be intimidated or even impressed by that kind of poverty. Listen to what He says about Himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Paul says of Jesus, “Though He was rich (He owns the cattle on a thousand hill, then wealth in every mine), yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine” (Psalm 50:11,12).
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills, the sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell,
He is my Father so they're mine as well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know that He will care for me.
(John W. Peterson)
8. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE SUCH A STRANGE ADVANCE MAN?
If I were to set up a series of meeting across the country, I would send a handsome, smartly dressed, smooth talking ambassador who would in no way embarrass me. But again. God didn’t ask me! He sent a raving, rough hewn mountain man, dressed in ridiculous clothing, who had a strange appetite for organic food, like locusts and wild honey. To top it all off, he ended his services by doing the most undignified thing. He dunked in water any who were brave enough to respond to his invitation.
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:4-6).
Luke says of him, “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Luke 3;7).
“Snakes, Wrath to come? Repent?” How tactless! If I were Jesus I would be spending most of my time apologizing for my advance man.
9. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE A MOTLEY CREW AS YOUR STAFF AND CABINET?
Every world leader surrounds himself with brilliant, charismatic people who are able communicators, with impeccable credentials and backgrounds.
God didn’t ask me but if He had, my advice would have been, go to the best known seminaries and choose at least three of the top professors who spoke fluent Greek and Hebrew, and were brilliant theologians. Then I would go to Hollywood and employ people who could command the attention of the crowds. Then I would go Wall Street to pick a few of the wealthiest and the best financial minds in the world. Then to the gym to choose six body guards to protect me. Some religious fanatics might decide to crucify me.
But again, God didn’t check with me. Instead he went to the streets and fishing villages and picked out the strangest crew ever to be sent on a mission to change the world! His leadership team included, a zealot and a tax collector, kind of a cross between black revolutionary and a Ku Klux Klan member. Some had heavy accents inappropriate for the job of communicating with the public. I would have fired Peter within a week of his hiring. He had “hoof and mouth disease, his foot was always in his mouth. His impulsiveness was always getting in the way, yet Jesus let him say, even giving him a place of prominence on his team.
Listen to Paul, “ For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God “ (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).
Now the only thing left that might salvage His reputation would be a powerful and miraculous rescue from the jaws of death. Like the three Hebrew children being rescued from the furnace. Or like Daniel’s miraculous deliverance from the lion’s den. But I’m afraid that His death was the final blow to any chance for impressiveness.
10. IF YOU WERE GOD AND YOU WANTED TO REVEAL YOURSELF TO THE WORLD WOULD YOU CHOOSE DO DIE A HORRIBLE, IGNOMINIUS, TRAGIC EXECUTION FOR YOURSELF?
Jesus death was certainly notorious! The cross is seen everywhere, steeples, bumper stickers, around our necks on gold chains, on suit lapels, and on church stationary. It is sung about and proclaimed. People even carry heavy crosses for penance or publicity. The symbol of the cross has permeated the world.
We really don’t understand the cross, because people are not crucified today. If Jesus had been executed our day, we would have treated Him more humanely. He would go to the electric chair or the gas chamber or be killed by lethal injection. Think of how different our witness would have been…”My friend, my best friend died in the electric chair for you, if you believe take up your electric chair and follow Him.” Can you hear us singing, “There’s room in the electric chair for you.” We would be dangling little electric chairs or hypodermic needles around our neck. We would become the laughing stock of the world, just as they were in the early church. Here’s just one verse that would sound really strange, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Revised, “The Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Joshua electrocuted.” (with apologies).
Jesus death was the death of a common criminal. There was no heroic, medal of honor death. His execution was a shameful, degrading, tortuous execution befitting the worst of criminals. And in His death He carries the sins, crimes, and atrocities of the world on His shoulders, causing Him to cry out in anguish, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Born in a stable, questionable parents, spotty ancestry, common name, misdirected announcement, common looks, reared in a bad neighborhood, owning nothing, surrounded by inept co-workers and dying a shameful death.
What a paradox! The Savior of the world coming in humility, living in obscurity, and dying in agony on a cross. And for what? For you and me!
“Man of Sorrows!” what a name! For the Son of God, who came.
Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die; “It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!
(Phillip P. Bass)