Plan A has a habit of sounding much better in your head than out in the real world.
Let’s say you want to save the world. More than save it; save it and then restore it to its intended glory. To save the day you would gather your best guns together and go kick butt . You’d summon lots of guys like Arnie, Van Damme, Bond and St Chuck. They’d blow stuff up and smack bad guys while wisecracking about righteousness. Big smiles all around as the battle ends, the sun rising on a new day in paradise.
God is interested in a global rescue too. He gets his posse together and rides out. The first member is a teenage girl. If she says yes to the plan, she invites scandal, family rejection and social exclusion. The second is Joseph, Mary’s fiancé and small business owner. His yes also risks scandal, humiliation and whispers behind his back for idiotically believing his girlfriend’s story about her pregnancy.
We may be a little disappointed at the lack of a thunderous army of smart ass hard men. Instead God enters human reality as the most vulnerable thing on earth: a human baby born in an era of violence, poverty and massive infant mortality. He is totally dependent on the very people who have a track record for letting him down. The only people interested in this birth are a young couple out of their depth, a jealous and murderous king, a trio of high born foreign pagans and some shepherds looking to get in out of the cold for awhile.
What was God thinking? This plan has a lot of holes in it. What if Mary had said no? Did lots of other girls say no? When Gabriel got to Mary was he was just working his way through the Ms? What if Joseph opted out? Were these the only people he chose?
The fragility of these humble beginnings prompts us to ask just who all this was for. Did God do this for us or for him? Did he empty himself of all his glory so that he could do a make over on the universe? Or did he do this for us so that the universe could be made right in a way for us (and him) to forever enjoy and thrive within? Did he do it because he loves his creation so much the thought of it being lost breaks his heart?
One of the underplayed bits of the nativity is the heart of the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth. They don’t speak with the patronising voice of a royal spokesperson. The angels go and find the shepherds (the only people listening apparently) and tell them there is great news for humans! They are so excited for what we are about to receive they burst into song.
Angels aren’t the originators of messages. They only tell us what they hear at God’s feet. The message they come with is good news of peace for all humanity. God is excited about what he is going to do for us and among us. The incarnation is an expression of God’s love for us and a declaration that he will never give up on us, though he’s been tempted to many times.
God invites us, one by one, to join this fragile plan of rescue through love. He doesn’t conscript us. Instead, he invites us to join him in loving the world back to life even when the world doesn’t want to be loved. He shows us in Jesus how this is humanly possible.
Christmas is an invitation to join God’s posse of love and hope. There is no plan B. Good luck everyone!