I wonder how many times the story of Christmas has been told, acted, sung or written about in the past two thousand years? It must be in the billions by now! However, have you ever stopped for a moment and considered how topsy-turvy, how upside-down and back-to-front, the story of that first Christmas really is? It may be familiar to most of us, but there is nothing normal about the story. Let me show you three simple examples of what I mean:
A topsy-turvy place
‘But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.’ Micah 5:2
In the book of Micah, written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, we’re shown that God had pre-ordained that Jesus, the coming saviour, would be born in an up north and back-of-beyond place—Bethlehem. Did you catch that? When the time came for Jesus’ birth, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus, the most powerful man in the known world, to organise a census which would send Mary and Joseph who were living in Nazareth back to their ancestral home – Bethlehem.
This is a topsy-turvy moment in history! Suddenly the administrative might of the Roman Empire is working on God’s behalf to shine the spotlight of history on a small, out-of-the-way little place called Bethlehem.
Have you, like me, ever felt a little insignificant in this crowded and bustling world, where the news is always about big political and economic decisions and the chat shows are always filled with the good and the great of society? If so, then Christmas should underline for us that implicit in scripture is the truth God guides and shapes the course of history for his people. This topsy-turvy story shows us that significance is not found in power, place or prestige, but rather being at the very centre of God’s plans and purposes, even if that means being in an out-of-the-way place like Bethlehem.