Perhaps Joseph believed that he could serve God by fighting with his sons against oppression and injustice. In a way, he did exactly that: his son broke the chains of sin and death and led captivity captive. But the baby in a manger looked nothing like he expected.
Perhaps Mary looked forward to a life of faithful obedience to the law, love for her family, and service to her community. In a sense, she got exactly that: she was the mother of Christ, the one who came to perfectly fulfill the law and whose sacrifice brought salvation to the whole world. But the baby in a manger looked nothing like she expected.
The Israelites expected a King, a political hero who could match power with power and restore Israel’s rightful place in the world. The Pharisees expected a defender of morality, who would vindicate their scrupulous sacrifices and uphold what was right by condemning those who sinned and stumbled. The Romans expected a rabble-rouser who would attempt a violent rebellion, stirring up fear and hatred to motivate his followers and contest their rule.
We often see this dynamic at work at our clinics - volunteers come expecting to give, and they receive; professionals come with a lifetime of answers, and leave with new questions; students come expecting to learn, and they teach. Sometimes clients expect to get rid of their problems, but what they get is a way through; sometimes they expect the worst, but receive good news; sometimes the law provides no answer or relief, but together we find hope in Christ.
The justice of God looks nothing like we expected: it looks less like a courtroom, and more like Christmas.
This season, our prayer for you is that you are surprised by Jesus. That like Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna, your eyes would be opened to see the Messiah for whom the whole world was waiting. And that your heart would not be disappointed by unmet expectations, but rather be filled with joyful hope as you see God working His redemption and justice in the world.
Christmas is not what we expect. It's better.