It’d be an understatement to say the story of Christmas is pretty impressive. There are ancient prophecies being fulfilled, events happening in the stars, merciless kings to heckle and choirs of angels appearing to sing about the birth of God’s son. You can understand why we’ve been putting on nativity plays for hundreds of years!
However, even with all the song and dance in the Christmas story, ultimately the thing it’s all pointing towards is something that, on the surface, looks tiny and insignificant. Not only did God come to earth as a human, he came into the world as a baby: the smallest and most vulnerable kind of human.
The amazing weirdness of God becoming an actual human like us (with all our flaws and icky parts) is talked about in Paul’s letters to the Philippians:
‘[Christ Jesus] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’ (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV).
Jesus was born to parents who, apart from their far off lineage, wouldn’t really be considered special. Although Joseph worked hard as a carpenter, they were probably just about keeping their heads above water. As for the people who first paid attention to what was happening, they weren’t rich either. They were shepherds: hard working people who lived on the hills, on the outskirts of town. They were outsiders in every meaning of the word.
In fact, a lot of the people in the Christmas story aren’t actually from Bethlehem. The later arrivals, the Wise Men, came from faraway lands and, although they were presumably rich enough to afford travel, education and the gifts they brought, they had different beliefs to the local people in Bethlehem, because no one noticed the star’s importance.
Joseph and Mary also had to travel far to get to Bethlehem and couldn’t find anywhere to stay when they got there. Chances are, when they arrived, the gossips had got there first. I bet everyone had an opinion about Mary’s pregnancy outside of marriage. No wonder they were cold shouldered everywhere they went, ending up shooed out of sight with the animals.
So, what does all this tell us? It tells us that whatever your situation, if you’re feeling forgotten about, an outsider, unloved or the focus of gossip and criticism, God sees you. He isn’t far away. He is in the middle of what you’re going through and holding your hand through it.