We see our circumstances and we feel the effects of fear, doubt, and worry as we desperately try to find a way out. Sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we are lonely or hurting emotionally. Sometimes we may even be in physical danger or suffering from life piling a whole bunch of trouble on us all at once. Regardless of the cause our first response is usually to seek relief as we repeatedly ask “Why?”
We have a word that we use in the South sometimes to describe something that is just off. Something that is weirdly messed up in a strange way we call wonky. “Now that is just wonky!” Your neighbors car won’t start because a squirrel decided to build a nest inside it and ended up chewing some really important parts while leaving acorn remnants all over the motor? That’s a pretty wonky story! (I promise this is related, bear with me)
Have you ever really thought about the circumstances surrounding the Christmas story? The whole thing could be described as wonky if you look at only the circumstances. Mary and Joseph have already been told that they are going to be the parents of God’s only son and they have been obedient in preparing for their life together. But then something happens that turns all of their preparations and plans on their heads.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
Mary and Joseph have to leave their home and travel (mostly by walking and on the back of a donkey) to Bethlehem because some Roman official got the idea that it was time to take a census. And of course when they arrive they can’t find a place to stay. Everything is booked. So they end up bedding down with the barn animals in the stable and Mary gives birth to Jesus and places him in a feeding trough that serves as his first crib. Do you think they, during all of this, ever asked God “Why?”
I think they did. I think they needed constant reassurance that they were right in the middle of God’s plan and that He was taking care of them despite their wonky circumstances.
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2 15-20)
Not only was God actively providing for Mary and Joseph during the birth He was also announcing the arrival of His Son to some very unlikely candidates at the very same time. Angels appeared to some very important shepherds in a field nearby (I say very important because God specifically chose these men to be the very first witnesses of the Christ child) who immediately left their fields to go and see Jesus. After seeing Jesus what did they do?
They “made it widely known” and “all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds”. God understood the importance of including “the least of these” into His plan and at that time anyone who was a shepherd was considered the lowest in terms of societal position. I believe God picked them specifically because He wanted the world to understand that everyone, no matter their station, was to be included in His plan. And it was “the least of these” that started the important task of telling the world about Jesus’ arrival.
Viewed from a human perspective the Christ child’s birth may seem to be a strange (wonky) series of circumstances and events. But viewed from a Godly perspective we see that God had a plan and carried it out using ordinary, lowly people who in turn did amazing things for God’s Kingdom. So next time you are tempted to ask “Why” instead ask “What are you doing, Lord?” and “How can I make sure that I stay in the middle of it so that you can use me?”