Way back when, when I asked my wife to marry me, she didn't say "Yes." Well, eventually she did, but not right away. She said something much better. She grabbed my face in her hands and said, "You mean, I get you? You picked me?" as if I was some sort of prize. (You can see what they mean when they say love is blind).
I tell that story because it sums up the feelings each of the characters in this history of Jesus' birth would be feeling. "God picked me?" It sums up the feelings we should be feeling as we open our Bibles and read Luke 2. "God picked me?"
And as we keep reading, we can take the question mark out of there, because as unbelievable as it is, yes, God picked you. It goes throughout the story, from the unwed, unimpressive young woman from a tiny little town who is picked to be the virgin mother of God's son, to the shepherds who were picked to be his first worshippers; from the place, that little town of , to you, right here, right now - reading this newspaper. God picked you.
But why? Why did God send the angel to come to a town archaeologists struggle to find anything on to talk to a girl there with nothing to commend her? Instead of entering with flashes of lightning and chariots of fire, our God entered our world as a couple of cells in the womb of a nobody, in a nothing town that even the Old Testament calls small. And as if that weren't enough, it happened in a stable, with likely more animal than human witnesses. And his bed was their feed trough.
Why? Because by picking all of these humble circumstances - God was doing something else. God was picking me...God was picking you.
Add up all the smallness of the situation - Nazareth, Bethlehem, stable, manger - and it doesn't even come close to comparing to this choice God made. God picked me, a sinner. The way he came isn't nearly as earth shattering as the fact that he came - for us. You see those small towns and those humble settings weren't fighting against him. We were. God created us humans to be perfect, to live love, to give him glory. Instead we decided to try to give ourselves glory, and in so doing removed anything glorious from ourselves.
God told Adam and Eve - "Love me and your life will be ideal." Satan told them to love themselves more and find out how much better life could be rebelling against God. So they slapped their creator in the face with a bite of the forbidden fruit. And we haven't stopped following their lead. Every selfish thought, every hurting word, every jealous heart is an all out assault on God. He is holy. Our sin sets us at odds with him, and it is a barrier that we cannot overcome because if holiness and sin interact, one of them must die, either the sin kills the holiness like Adam and Eve's sin did for the human race - or the holiness kills the sin like God's wrath does over all who break his law.
This means that we must die. We were death row convicts with no opportunity for appeal. Until...God picked us. He found a solution. Either the sinner or the holy one must die. So, God sent his son, born of a woman. And "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son." God became one of us...to die, to take our sin with him to death and destroy it. It doesn't make sense. It is emotionally overwhelming, but God picked me.
That's what this baby in the manger is all about. God picked me. That's what the cross shouts out: God picked me. Above his own son, above his own comfort, above all - God picked me. And God picked you too - to be his perfect, his forgiven child, to live with him forever. It is a Merry Christmas.
Jonathan E. Scharf
Pastor, Abiding Grace Lutheran Church