God is breaking open our hearts with God’s own vulnerability.


“Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Merry Christmas!

This is it! The Savior of the world is born! God is manifesting on earth! 

We zoom in from the cosmos onto the Roman Empire in the reign of Caesar Augustus. Where will we land? A throne room? A battlefield?

No. A barn.

This is as subversive as it gets.

God is coming into the world as a tiny, vulnerable baby. The witnesses to his birth won’t be nobles or kings, but animals — beasts of burden, as well as birds and mice and bugs.

God comes into the beautiful world that God has made, but it is a world that has descended into violence and chaos and disharmony in the hands of humans. In this barn, all of these wonderful animals God has made have been put to human use and crammed together, and they’re stinky. It’s an apt metaphor — in human hands, the world has gotten pretty stinky. And that’s the world God comes to.

The first people to hear of the birth, beyond Mary and Joseph, are the shepherds. They may seem idyllic and romantic to us now, thanks to this very story, but they were stinky too. And poor. And sometimes they were made shepherds as punishment for perceived crimes, and sometimes their very existence was criminalized. Shepherds could not testify in court. They slept outside with their animals. They were considered the lowest of the low.

The angels come to them and say, “Do not be afraid.” All their lives, the voices of authority and power have told them that they are nothing, but now they are witnesses to the good news ahead of everyone else.

The good news is that God is restoring the balance, the harmony, of the world, precisely by honoring and uplifting the vulnerable. God is breaking open our hearts with God’s own vulnerability. And God is making a world in which true value is found not in riches or power, but in love, which is open to everyone. 

The Olive

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