Perhaps one of the most overlooked characters in the Christmas story is the Father. Not Joseph...God. Because when we think about God in the Christmas story, we think about Him in the manger. We think about Emmanuel, God with us, God manifest in baby boy and we talk about the incredible way in which He gave Himself to human form and came upon a midnight clear to stand in the mess of the world.
But Jesus clearly tells us again and again that He is not God. He is the Son, telling the story of the Father. And the story of the Father on Christmas morning is not the story of One who comes.
It's the story of One who gives.
On this day, more than two thousand years ago, God gave us His Son. He gave His Son, knowing we would mistreat Him. Knowing we would mishear Him. Knowing we would misunderstand Him. Knowing we would misinterpret Him. He gave us His Son knowing we wouldn't know what we had until it was too late, although He promised to make "too late" just the beginning.
Yes, God gave us His Son. More than that, however, He gave us His story.
From the beginning of the world, from the time of the Fall, from the first bite of apple, God had a plan to restore and redeem this world. He had a way to bring us back to Him. And, well, He's God. He could have done this any way He saw fit. He could have single-handedly controlled the redemption of the world, to make sure it went off without a hitch. He could have dominated the process. He could have imposed Himself and with a great show of power, made sure we knew just what was going on here.
Instead, He came powerless as a crying infant. He put His story into the hands of a timid virgin and an unsure man. He put His story into the hands of an impoverished womb, a family who could not even afford the preferred offering to honor this child. (Mary and Joseph had to give the back-up offering of birds.) He put His story into the town of Nazareth. Could anything good from there? He put His story into the stable - a stable with a manger, out of which cattle eat. And cattle were unclean to the Jewish people. (According to Webster's, cattle and horses eat out of mangers.) He put His story into the common folk - fishermen. He put His story into the sinners - tax collectors, prostitutes. He put His story into the broken - the blind, deaf, mute, paralyzed, infected, diseased, disordered.
He put His story in the hands of the religious, who looked for a way to fit Him into the law.
He put His story in the hands of the rival kingdom, who nailed it to a Cross.
It didn't have to be that way. God could have redeemed the world in ways we could never imagine. He could have done it Himself and known that it would be done right. He could have informed us thusly that redemption was afoot. He could have told us how it was all going to go down.
Instead, He showed us. And He let us play a part. As flawed, as frail, as human a part as we possibly could. On Christmas morning, God gave us His story and let us be a part of coming back to Him.
And the same is true today. He's still giving us His story. He's giving it to those of us who are timid, unsure. He's giving it to those of us impoverished, who don't feel able to offer a proper sacrifice. He's giving it to a region where goodness seems scarce. He's giving it to a place whose filth is going to smear all over it. He's putting it in an unclean place and trusting us to notice there's something bigger going on here.
He's giving it to the common folk, to the sinners, to the broken. He's giving it to the religious, who think they know what to do with it (come to find out, they haven't a clue either). He's giving it to the rival kingdom, to we whose lives stand in opposition to His reign. (And that's all of us. I refer you back to the 'sinner' category.) He's giving His story to us, knowing that we'll never get it. Knowing we don't understand. Knowing we wouldn't know what we have until it's too late.
And promising that "too late" is just the beginning.
We often forget to think about God the Father in the Christmas story. It's easy to do. God Incarnate is much more enticing. But it is precisely this moment, this morning, that in a rare twist of tale, God puts His faith in us. He gives us His story, in the form of His Son. It couldn't have been easy. It can't be easy. But this is love.
This is Christmas.