An Unexpected Christmas
This week’s devotional is from guest contributor Amanda Gallagher. She can be found on Instagram at @mandagallagher1.
“He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice.He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.” John 1:10-11 (MSG)
If you asked me 5 years ago where I thought I’d be today, I would have imagined a thriving career, a successful and Godly husband, an established home, and maybe a budding family. Basically, I would have painted you a cozy Norman Rockwell vision with a few scattered adventures overseas, riddled with purpose and fulfillment.
Instead, I am a homeless nomad with my Honduran husband pursuing a lifelong dream on one income. I sleep regularly on beds that aren’t mine, I can’t remember where I put my hairbrush because it has no “spot,” and everything we own can fit in our car. Christmas is only a few weeks away, and I have no comfy home, no decorated tree, and no beautifully wrapped gifts waiting in anticipation of Christmas morning.
This is not what I expected.
To be honest, I’m often frustrated at what is missing in this season. I can feel lost, weary, afraid and uncertain simply because my reality doesn’t align with my vision. But if Christmas teaches us anything it’s that there are unexpected gifts in our unmet expectations.
I didn’t expect the Savior to be a Baby
The Savior of the World joins humanity not as an adult warrior or a seasoned sage. Instead, he comes as the most vulnerable in the universe – a baby. Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For to us a child is born,” and so, completely exposed and utterly dependent on His own creation is how Emmanuel chooses to enter the world.
He doesn’t bypass the fragility of infancy. He doesn’t manifest as a grown man ready for ministry. He doesn’t skip over a complete reliance on his mother for his every need.
Completely exposed is how God enters the world. A savior who comes in vulnerability, much like our own, is the unexpected gift of a child in a manger.
I didn’t expect a Mighty God to choose a Messy Place
Speaking of a child in a manger … gross. Who wants to give birth where livestock is kept? Who wants to lay their baby in a feeding trough for animals? It’s certainly a far cry from sterilized hospital rooms and well-decorated nurseries of today, and probably not anything Mary envisioned for her firstborn.
Isaiah 9:6 goes on to say one Jesus’ many names will be Mighty God. And our mighty God chose a very messy place to begin His physical journey with humanity. Perhaps Scott Erickson, artist and author, says it best when he writes, “Jesus is mighty not because of His capacity to overcome hardship but because of His willingness to go through human hardship, like we have to do.”
Jesus was born unsafe, unsanitized, and in an unkempt place. His willingness to not avoid our mess, to genuinely be God-with-us in all circumstances, is a wildly unexpected gift we might miss if we don’t appreciate the mess.
I didn’t expect a King without a Castle
“She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7
I have a problem with this detail; it causes a dozen questions to flood my mind. Questions like:
- What do you mean there was no room for them?
- Bethlehem should have been filled with family if Joseph was from there, right?
- Were they simply late in arriving, or was it the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy?
- Were others ashamed that Joseph would father what would appear to be an illegitimate child?
- Why does God not give His son the very best?
I’m speculating here, but the fact that Jesus, as an infant, isn’t even born in a home, immigrates to Egypt to escape a mad king, and eventually lives a nomadic lifestyle with his disciples is strangely reassuring to me nowadays. He was born into, and lived in uncomfortable circumstances when He was fully entitled to the very best the world had to offer.
Sometimes I can feel entitled to more, but when I think of Jesus laying down his rights as a King, I am encouraged to do the same. The unexpected gift of empathy and humility is what a king without a castle offers you and I. He knows my needs, understands my uncertainties, and in humility walks with us in our humanity.
Unmet Expectations Contain Unexpected Gifts
If I’m not careful, I can linger a little too long on what I’m lacking. I can focus a little too much on what’s missing. I can make what’s missing the center of my attention. If I’m not careful, I might also miss the saving power of an infant who relates to my vulnerability and insecurities. I might not recognize a King outside a comfortable castle, living in humbleness and uncertainty. I might also not know to look for or expect a mighty God to show up for me in my messy life.
John 1:10 reminds us that “He entered into the world he created, yet the world was unaware. He came to the people he created to those who should have received him, but they did not recognize him.” And because they did not recognize Him, they don’t have access to the very best gift of all – here, in our unmet expectations is where God hides the very best unexpected gift of all – He is with us.
May God always guide your path.