Christmas is strangely wonderful. It makes no earthly sense, but we see the miraculous in God’s unlikely way of doing things. Only our wonderful God could take circumstances like these and make something so beautiful.
You can read the whole story leading up to and including Jesus’ birth in Luke 1 and Luke 2. It’s an amazing one, albeit strange. The improbability of it all is what draws me to it. The people involved thought it was strange and confusing also.
However, the story really starts with 400 years of silence. When you turn from Malachi 4 to Matthew 1, there are 400 years of silence in between those two pages. The Jewish people did not hear from God for all that time. For those who remained faithful, they must have wondered if God had forgotten His promise of a Messiah King.
You can read more about this long period of silence and what happened during that time HERE.
These years of silence meant that God had to do something to get the attention of His people. Some had stopped listening. Some were still believing and praying. He needed to be sure that they’d incline their ears to the message.
In Luke 1, we learn about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s miracle baby, John. He would later be known as John the Baptist, the one who forged the path for the ministry of Jesus by telling the masses that the Lord was coming.
How unlikely it is that an old, childless couple would be chosen by God to be parents to the herald of Jesus. I believe that God chooses to do unlikely things such as this to emphasize that He alone is responsible. A God who performs the impossible grabs people’s attention.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah while he was in the temple performing his priestly duties. He announced that Zechariah and his wife would receive an answer to their prayers for a child. Not only would he have a child in his old age, but the child would be special.
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Surely that dream had faded for the old priest. Perhaps he thought Gabriel had the wrong man. The parent of an important messenger? Zechariah couldn’t grasp it. His response confirms this.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
So there Zechariah was, old as can be, with a pregnant wife. Besides this, he had been struck dumb until the baby was born. The circumstances of John’s birth seem an odd and unlikely prelude to the Messiah’s arrival. Yet it was so. John was born, Zechariah regained his speech, and people were astonished.
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son grew to be a man of God. John, whose name means “Jehovah has been gracious”, wandered around the wilderness, wearing camelhair clothing and eating grasshoppers. What an unlikely evangelist.
In today’s world, such a person would be labeled crazy. Instead, people flocked to him. Despite his wild appearance and behavior, he was an effective messenger.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
God chooses the unlikely and does not operate the way the world might expect. Jesus’ birth is an even better example of this.
Gabriel was again the messenger of strange news when he visited Mary, a teenage virgin. This girl must have been frightened. To be pregnant outside of marriage in her day was an offense that called for execution. She, like Zechariah, wondered how such strange news could be true. Gabriel’s assurance was overwhelming and mysterious.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
I’m not sure I could have refrained from asking a million more questions. Gabriel’s answer would have conjured up plenty in my mind. When? Where? What about Joseph? What if people don’t believe me?
Her faith and obedience to God’s will are part of this strangely wonderful story also. They inspire me to trust God when things seem entirely impossible. A pregnant virgin? An infant king? It’s all so improbable, but this is Christmas.
People were looking for a powerful king. Instead, God delivered a helpless baby. Born in the cold and nestled in a manger instead of a crib, he entered the world humbly. Lowly and unimportant shepherds were the first to know. No dignitaries, no pomp, no parades, no epic battle to overthrow the sitting king.
A dazzling angelic chorus was the announcement of the first Christmas. Way out in the darkness, away from the bustle of the city, the heavenly host glorified God in a spectacle not seen since. Why put on such a show for a marginalized group like the shepherds? Why tell them first?
I believe this was the first of many ways God would impress upon the world that Jesus is for all people. In many of Jesus’ dealings, He spent time with and ministered to those the religious folks of the day considered low or untouchable. Again, in God’s strange economy, He wants us to know that He is accessible to all and loves each and every person.
I love the Christmas story in all its strangeness. It beckons me closer to the God who wrote it in hopes that I can understand Him better. I want to know a God like this, one who uses unlikely people to work out His plans. May I be one of them.
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Hi! I’m Tracy…Christ-follower, wife, mama, writer, blogger, speaker, teacher, dreamer. I love Earl Grey Tea and quiet mornings. Here at Earl Grey and Yellow, the focus is striving to be faithful and appreciate the small things. So glad you stopped by. Please have a look around and subscribe to our newsletter and social media to stay connected.