God came quietly. The arrival of the divine on earth was much subtler and cloaked than most of us would expect, or demand. It’s worth asking, “Why?”
I could launch into a theodicy about the strategicness of God’s particular mode of infiltration. How God values seekers more than mere believers. In other words, if God just wanted maximal belief in his existence, he would have come differently. But the subtlety of his visitation leaves the path home only partially traversed. He waits for us somewhere in the middle, sending word of his presence. Only those who sincerely want to meet him and set out on the winding path will find him waiting, smiling.
Instead, I think it’s worth pointing out another reason for God’s humble advent. It seems to me that God didn’t want to resonate with the rich, powerful and famous. The Kings, Generals and Politicians. He wanted to identify and clasp hands with the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. Jesus’ kin are those born as he was: in obscurity, in weakness.
Mary recognized this from the moment Gabriel came to her. The fact that God would send his salvation through her–a small, Jewish girl–instantly set the tone for God’s work. In her now-famous prayer, she highlights this tone:
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; he has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent away the rich empty-handed.”
So if you’re baffled by God’s seemingly counterproductive means of announcing his existence to humanity, then remember where God’s heart is–with the small and brokenhearted. He not only wanted to become human in order to connect with our humanity; he wanted to become poor to connect with our poverty, to become abused to connect with our suffering.
Perhaps you think “that’s nice, but he should have done more for the suffering!” I understand the frustration. But that is another discussion. I am only pointing out here that there is a beautiful reason for God’s unwillingness to trumpet his arrival among the rich and powerful, to take a throne rather than a cross. If you’ve ever felt disenfranchised, abused, or exploited, then you are Jesus’ brother or sister. He is nearer to you. Christmas is for you.