That moment defied human expectations of the Messiah. The Jews had been waiting for this King for quite some time. They knew that a deliverer was coming. They did not know what that would mean. They expected a show of force. They expected a military leader who would overthrow their oppressors and establish a physical kingdom.
Instead, we got a baby. This baby did not even have a very noble birth. His parents could not even find a room to sleep in for the night, so they made his first bed in a feeding trough. The only people who celebrated this birth were a few wise men from far away and a group of lowly shepherds.
However, there was something about that baby. There were already rumors about this baby; rumors which made a king feel threatened. He wanted the baby dead. His parents were forced to take their child and flee. So, this Messiah spent the first part of his life in hiding until the frightened king was dead. Not exactly the overpowering Messiah humanity expected.
As he grew into a boy, he was drawn to the temple, to his Father's house. He talked with the teachers. The teachers were not simply humoring a child, they were having a real discussion with the boy. The men were astonished at the boy's understanding. He was not a military leader, but there was something different about him.
When he became an adult, he started to travel and teach. His teachings were new and powerful. People all around knew about Jesus. He performed incredible miracles. He healed the sick. He released demoniacs from their possession. He even raised the dead. Now, no one could deny that someone special had grown from the baby born in such humble circumstances. He was certainly a great teacher. Some thought he might be a prophet. Still others began to utter the words they had been anticipating for so long: Messiah.
Jesus did not inspire excitement in everyone. This was not the militaristic Messiah they had expected. This was not the warrior-king they had anticipated. Sure, he challenged the oppressive government. However, he also challenged the religious leaders. He condemned them while reaching out to those who failed to live up to the religious standards. He drew the outcasts and the undesirables in droves. There was something different about this man.
He gained a huge following. Some saw him as a threat to the stability of the empire. Some saw him as a threat to their control over God's people. This man had never raised a sword against anyone in his life, yet he threatened the religious order and the physical kingdom. He was not the Messiah they had expected. He was something far different.
The enemies he had made over the years had tried for so long to kill him. Finally, they found their moment. They did not make it quick. He was beaten and tortured. They forced him to drag the implement of his demise to the site of his death, and then nailed him to it. He died a slow agonizing death. His disciples were terrified, confused, devastated. This was not the Messiah they had expected.
Three days later, he proved to the world exactly who he was. This man had been struck with the most powerful weapon available to humanity and to the evil one himself: Death. He had been killed. Three days later, he proved to the world that he was more powerful than our ultimate weapon. He rose from his grave. He overcame death. He was the Messiah. He was God's son.
His disciples finally understood. This Messiah had little concern for the trivial, tiny kingdoms of our little world. His concern spanned across the ages. There were more important things at stake. He came not to free a single nation from the oppression of another government. He came to free every person from the oppression of sin. He came to taste death, to defeat death, and to offer life. He was not what we expected. He was something far greater.
He went on to the Father, left the disciples with a Helper, and a movement started, a movement based in love. This movement won converts not by the sword, but by the Spirit. This movement was not tied to any single kingdom on Earth, it sought to include the entire globe. It was not a militaristic movement. It was not the kingdom humanity had expected the Messiah to establish. It was a Kingdom far greater. Without lifting a sword, it threatened the religious order and the physical kingdoms. People tried to squelch it over and over. When they started slaughtering the citizens of this otherworldly Kingdom, the Kingdom only spread and grew.
So, here we are, 2,000 years later. On this day, we celebrate the birth of that little baby. That long awaited baby who would grow into our Messiah. Not the Messiah we expected. Not the Messiah we wanted. The Messiah we needed.
But, why? Why this quiet invasion? Why did God not simply step in and squash evil? I think C. S. Lewis describes it best in Mere Christianity:
"Another possible objection is this. Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough?
Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited until the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does.
When God invades this world in force, it will be too late to decide to join his side. We would not stand a chance, corrupted by sin as we were. Something had to be done. So, he sent that baby. He gave us the Messiah we needed. He defied our expectations. He surpassed our expectations. The quiet invasion began on that night. The invasion that is still happening. The invasion that sought to rescue all of us from destruction.When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else-something it never entered your head to conceive-comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it, or leave it."
Thank God for the peaceful baby who overthrew the world. Merry Christmas.