I love the Christmas story. But there’s one part of it that haunts me.
It’s the part where the magi make it to Jerusalem, not knowing where to go to finish their journey. No address or zip code came with the star. So, they visit Herod and he calls the Bible teachers to help out and they give excellent directions. But they don’t follow those directions themselves. The pastors miss out on Jesus.
As a pastor, that gets me. I don’t want to be those guys. I want to make sure that I don’t just point people to Jesus, I want to encounter him myself.
But it gets me on another level too. Because like them, I find myself waiting and looking for God in the wrong places.
I’m guessing the reason why the Bible scholars and Herod didn’t go the not quite 8 miles to Bethlehem is that the town of David was too small to be of any consequence to them. They were in the only truly important city in the land, after all. They were too high to stoop so low.
But the reality is that most of what God does in the world, both in what we see in the Scriptures and throughout history, takes place away from the seats of power and among the few and lowly.
The important thing doesn’t take place in the Sumerian cradle of civilization; it takes place when Abraham leaves there. The important thing doesn’t take place in Egypt; it takes when Moses leads God’s people away from Egypt. And so on. Story after story after story.
One of my favorite stories is in 1 Samuel 17, where we find the David v. Goliath account.
Everyone knows the stats on Goliath. How tall he is. How much his helmet and armor weigh. What his greaves and javelin are made of. How much the tip of his spear weighs. It’s almost as if they had Goliath trading cards with the stats all listed. But the key to the story isn’t Goliath’s impressive stats, the key is David’s God, who gives forgotten-by-his-father David the victory with a normal little rock quickly gathered from an unnamed stream.
Everything God does flies under the radar. None of it is headline news.
But we spend far too much time gawking at celebrities, shaking our heads over the headlines, angry with or hopeful about politicians, waiting for the next bit of tech to improve our lives.
But the way of God is the way of the mustard seed, the way of Egypt’s Hebrew slaves, the way of rejected prophets, the way of a baby born in a manger who was too insignificant for the self-important ones to waste their time on.
This is a great encouragement to me, since I am among the meek and the weak, the last and the lowly. I am insignificant enough that God just might be able to do something significant through me. Or you.
May we not be so focused on the self-important ones that we miss out on the truly important things God is doing in us and around us. May we be like shepherds and magi who get in on the action.
May we not be so dazzled by the overinflated things of this world (including ourselves) that we miss Jesus on Christmas or any day.