The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song. The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent. Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.” Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.
Day 4: The Sacred Conspiracy of Christmas
Let’s be conspiracy theorists for a moment. Say you are a guy (let’s call you Joseph), and you’re engaged to this sweet hometown girl (let’s call her Mary), and you have watched this girl for years and years and have finally mustered up the courage to ask her to be your wife. And then she goes to visit relatives for a few months, and she comes back pregos, and you’re wondering what you should do.
The law gives you the right to have her killed, but you are a just man, and you love this girl, and she swears she has broken no law, so you resolve to break the engagement quietly. But then an angel comes to you and tells you that the conceived child belongs to no man, but to God, through the work of His Holy Spirit.
Now let’s say you start to get this devious plan in your mind. You remember your teacher telling you that there was this Coming One, the Messiah who would restore Israel to its former glory, and that this Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, because the prophet Micah foretold it. And you also remember a story about the coming one being born of a virgin, because the prophet Isaiah foretold it. And you have watched foreign occupiers suck the life out of your village and your people, and you want to see your nation restored. More than that, you want power yourself.
So you come up with this plan to take advantage of Mary’s situation, and your family happens to be from Bethlehem, so when Caesar issues a decree that everyone should return to their hometown for the census, you see this is your chance. You can work the situation into fulfilling a couple of prophecies by going to Bethlehem and having Mary deliver this child there. And then you could start telling people that your son is the long awaited Messiah! And then you’d coach your son into fulfilling other prophecies, and as he rose to power, you’d rise along with him.
You could do all of that right? I mean, it would be really strange, and you’d be a megalomaniac, and it’d be a super long shot, but it’s possible, right?
Clearly, Joseph and Mary do no such thing. They probably had no idea that any of these prophecies were actually being fulfilled—they were likely just dealing with the really difficult situation they found themselves in. But what strikes me most in this story is the impossibility of any power-hungry man fulfilling Micah’s prophecy himself. You can maybe ride into Jerusalem on a donkey because Zechariah said the king would come into the city in this way, but you can’t control your birth. You can’t, as a child in the womb, control where your mom and dad go to deliver you (or control that pesky star).
Unless, of course, you’re God. And this is the wonder of Christmas. When Micah, facing the prospect of siege, spoke hope into the crumbling heart of Israel, “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 old, from ancient of days,” it meant that the deliverance of Israel was going to be of God.
This is why Christmas was God’s doing. It was the sacred conspiracy, a plan formulated in secret before the ages began, and not one of evil (as conspiracies are), but one of holy origins. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, and He would be a ruler in Israel who would “shepherd his flock” of God’s people, and He would be “their peace”, all because God planned it long ago and promised it through His prophet, Micah.
Let us wonder at the delight God has in taking small things (Bethlehem, a manger, a baby; us) and making great things from them (a Messiah who would shepherd His people and be their peace; a redeemed people who are conformed into the image of God’s Son). Let us realize that Christmas was promised long ago, in the midst of great trial, by a God who has our good in mind, and loves to use the weak in this world to shame the strong. And let us feel the love God has for us in this promised Messiah, a love that was made clear some 33 years after that miraculous birth, and a love that gives the substance to our Christmastime today.
For the rest of the 21 Days of Crave Something More Christmas, go here.