The celebration of Christmas can feel formulaic, especially in the United States.
Stores start advertising Christmas in October. Radio stations play Christmas music in November. People start pulling out the decorations and recipes they cook every Christmas. It is easy to simply fall into the formula of Christmas.
But a quick look at the story of the birth of Jesus will reveal there is nothing formulaic about God. From the virgin birth to the shepherds and the wise men God shows up in the most unexpected places and unusual ways.
Even the place of Jesus' birth is unconventional and unexpected. Micah 5:2 says that Bethlehem is too little to be among the clans of Judah, yet God chose the least significant to bring forth the Messiah, our Savior and Lord. Wouldn't Jerusalem be a much more fitting place for the birth of the King? It is only 5 miles away. But God is the God of the unexpected.
In our Christmas carols we sing of Bethlehem as being the place where the Everlasting Light shines and all our hopes and fears of all the years are met.
We all carry hopes and fears in our heart. Take a moment to really sense what is in your heart. Often times we ignore our own heart because hopes seem to be out of reach and fears are to painful. What are your hopes and dreams? What do you dread? Are there things that you fear are too big or difficult to even hope for?
Max Lucado says, "Hope is not what you'd expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending... Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction." (God Came Near, page 89)
May you be blessed this Christmas season to give all your hopes and fears to the God who is for you and who is capable of doing more than you can ask or imagine in the most unexpected ways.
This season may our heart's cry be that of the last words of "O Little Town of Bethlehem,"
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.