The story of Jesus is a story of rescue. God who called Abram out of Ur, who, through Moses, brought Israel up from Egypt, who led his people from wilderness to promised inheritance, and who brought the exiled people back from Persia to Zion to rebuild the Temple–this God is One who rescues his people. And rescue is what they needed. The Hasmoneans had a promising beginning, but what began hopefully in 140 BC proved ultimately a new path to exile when Judah came under Roman rule in 63 BC.
But God did promise to rescue them. One day he would come and restore his people, rescuing them from Roman governance, removing corruption within the priesthood, cleansing the Temple and rewarding the faithful, both living and dead. The kingdom of heaven will come. The dead will rise. The Son of Man will come. The Son of David will be enthroned. Messiah. The Anointed One.
And then he came. Without fanfare? No. A small group of shepherds were treated to an unparalleled heavenly display of glorious announcement. A humble unmarried teenager gave birth to Messiah in a barn.
God’s way of winning is to become small. His path to victory was to lower himself. His answer to the pride of our self-exaltation was to lower himself beyond our capacity to imagine. His birth points us forward to his ultimate self denial and his ultimate victory.
He came to rescue us. Not from Rome, but from our independence, from our greatness, from our opinions and our pride, from our self-worship, from the deadness inside our souls. How might we appropriately respond to such divine action? We respond best to such grace by needing it. We admit our blindness, our nakedness, our emptiness; we set aside the illusions of sufficiency we’ve constructed all these years. We become those in need of rescue, for that is what we are. And we let God come as an infant to lead us home.