A pastor and his family in a small village in the mountains of Java opened his home to our mission team. Bule, white people, rarely visited this town; in fact, we were told only one other team of bule missionaries, from Germany, had ever spent time in this village at all. The families lived in modest homes with little inside, but they did own cattle among other things that they kept in stables connected to their houses. In most cases, the stables were simply a room like all others. As we sat at the table about to share in the bountiful meal they proudly set before us, the cows provided the background music with a continuous song of lowing. I would soon speak at a gospel rally to hundreds of people from villages throughout the area. At that moment, we feasted in a humble home with cows and livestock in the next room.
As a Christian, I believe that the God of the universe, the creator and sustainer of all, entered the world as a baby through a young virgin girl named Mary. It is a remarkable story and as a former atheist I understand how utterly unbelievable the story sounds to ears not accustomed to hearing it. That said, this post is not to defend the belief. It is actually to marvel at that first night.
Those men I sat with woke up early in the morning to lead their livestock to a grassy area to graze. I realized that God chose as the witnesses and heralds of his great coming into this world men such as these: not kings or rulers, but odd humble people that know the love of God, their families, and their community. It was not a palace or castle, but a stable like theirs with animals and certainly all the odors that accompanied that place.
Where I live, the world Jesus was born into is as foreign as this Indonesian village was to me. As I reflected on the short time I spent in that village, I was grateful to God that he allowed me to work in ministry with men and women who helped me see the world differently. A truly silent night with none of our modern distractions. It was through that kind of culture that God came into the world. A young simple woman betrothed to a carpenter from the line of David gave birth. Angels announced the event to shepherds who were keeping their sheep at night. As Luke 2:16 - 20 says:
They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.
If you have ever had the privilege of spending time with people like these, then you know how cool it is that God chose this way. This is the way. Jesus's way. He comes to the humble, the meek, and the least of these and elevates them through love and grace. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to point of death - even to death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8
As a result, we can come to him with all of our mess, all of our weirdness, all of our sin. He met us where we live on a silent night and made a way.
Merry Christmas, everyone.