This holiday season retailers are hard at work getting our attention. And it’s no wonder. According to the National Retail Federation, a full one-fifth of all retail sales occur in just the last two months of the year. The increased spending explains the increased marketing. Companies are busy telling us why their product is better, faster, easier, cheaper, and a host of other superlatives.
In contrast to this annual Christmas focus, the first Christmas came with no great marketing strategy and no million-dollar ad campaigns. Instead, it came with the inverted splendor so foreign to a world obsessed with appearances.
A first-time mother, nameless shepherds, and a lowly village
Consider that when God chose the woman to bear his Son into the world, he didn’t choose a seasoned veteran or a mom of the year. Instead, he chose a first-time mother, the virgin Mary. Or, consider that when it came time to announce the birth, the message went to a nameless band of shepherds not to the world’s great movers and shakers. And when it came to a birthplace, the Lord of heaven and earth chose the lowliest bed in the lowliest hamlet.
A God who looks on those of humble estate
But this is exactly what we would expect from a God who uplifts the humble and puts down the proud. No wonder that this is the first chord Mary strikes in the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (Luke 1:46–48). Mary knows that God hasn’t chosen her for what she has; He chose her for what she lacks.
That is, after all, the greatest reason to celebrate Christmas. It’s not for the gifts, gatherings, and goodies; it’s to celebrate the God who looks on those of humble estate. No fancy packaging required. Now that’s a reason to magnify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior!
Peter Gurry (Ph.D.) serves as Assistant Professor of New Testament and Co-Director of the Text & Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary. His research interests range across Greek grammar, the history and formation of the Bible, and the history of New Testament scholarship. He and his wife are members at Whitton Avenue Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona.