(With tongue firmly planted in cheek, let us rethink this greatest of all stories.)
NEW ORLEANS (Christian Examiner) -- What was the Lord thinking, doing Christmas the way He did?
A Baby is born to an unwed couple after a long, arduous journey. The cradle is a feeding trough in a stable in Bethlehem. Welcoming committees of shepherds and foreigners show up. A murderous king sends his soldiers to slaughter babies. The young family flees to Egypt.
And thus Jesus arrives on the scene.
Admit it. You would not have done Christmas that way. It's not just me.
As the God of the universe, the infinite and omnipotent Heavenly Father, you could do anything you please, right? In the beginning, You created the Heavens and the earth, right? The opening statement of Scripture certainly establishes who is in charge. So everything is on the table. Nothing off limits.
"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." It says that right there in Psalm 115:3.
Now, all I'm saying is that had I been God and in charge, with no one to tell me 'no' or no administrative authority to question my actions, I think I might have done things differently.
Take that stable.
"She brought forth her firstborn Son and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)
My son would not have been laid in a feed trough, friend. No way. Only the best earth has to offer for my Boy.
Here we have the Son of the Living God coming into this world and being laid in a wooden contraption and cushioned, if at all, by straw or hay.
Whose idea was this?
Had we been doing this, you and I would certainly have made advance reservations for the best hotel in town. Who travels these days without planning ahead? And surely the Lord knew when this was all going to happen. I mean, that's basic, right? The foreknowledge of God, and all.
Don't misinterpret what I'm saying here. I'm certainly not criticizing the Father. Not me, nosirree. But it would appear some Angel must have dropped the ball in not seeing to the accommodations ahead of time. You have to wonder if heads rolled in Heaven and some angel was demoted.
Now, I'm confident the Lord chose well in Mary and Joseph. Nothing in Scripture would indicate they are anything less than choice young adults, a man and woman of high integrity and spiritual sensitivity, and we can appreciate this. So, the Lord clearly did a good job with them.
But the shepherds? As a welcoming committee?
Who called that one? And what were they thinking?
My pastor said last Sunday that on the social scale of that day, shepherds ranked just above lepers.
Shepherds are day laborers. Or in the case of the ones in the field outside Bethlehem, night laborers, I suppose we could say. We're talking unskilled labor, lowly paid, and probably ignorant. I doubt if they could read or write. And yet, they're chosen by Heaven to receive the birth announcement from the angels and given front-row seats as the audience for the first mass Heavenly choir performance in centuries. These guys weren't exactly musicians, if you get my drift. And yet, they attend the first open-air concert given to mortals in aeons. If ever.
How was that decision made? That's all I'm asking. Weren't there better qualified and more saintly men and women in and around Bethlehem that night?
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not criticizing the Father. No sir, not me. He had His reasons, I'm sure. I'm just saying it looks like someone up there dropped the ball on some of these things.
And while we're on the subject, how about those "magi"? What was that all about? Who called this one, and what are we to make of that? The Old Testament tells us nothing–well, nothing helpful–about a star guiding people to Jesus and certainly not a single word in prophecy hinted at foreign dignitaries traveling hundreds of miles and arriving in Jerusalem asking "where is He who has been born King of the Jews?"
And yet, there they are, given prominent space in the Birth narratives (Matthew 2). The only thing I can figure out is that the gold they brought came in handy to finance the sudden flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:14). Other than that, we are told nothing. Was all of that done just so Heaven could slip a little gold to Joseph and Mary? Could't it have been arranged for them to stumble on a treasure in a field, or win a jackpot or inherit something from a rich aunt?
I can just see an editor questioning the Heavenly Father: "Do we really need the magi? Do they further the plot? Looks to me like they just act as filler."
Well, that's enough, I suppose. We could question the story of Elizabeth and Zacharias in Luke 1, the two elderly ones in the Temple in Luke 2 (Simeon and Anna), and a few other things.
Okay, let me admit something here. I would not have done the Christmas story differently because I wouldn't have done it at all. Had I been God–that's a stretch for anyone's imagination, I know–I would not have loved this pitiful race of humans who deserved to be left to their own destructive devices enough to intervene for their salvation.
I would not have done a Christmas in the first place.
How much less an Easter, with its crucifixion and resurrection.
The chorus is right on target: "There's no God like Jehovah."
In Isaiah 55, God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Thank God for that.
I'd hate to think our God was no better than me and as good as you.
"Glory to God in the highest!"
Joe McKeever is the retired director of missions for the Southern Baptist churches of Metro New Orleans. He is a popular cartoonist and speaker. His ministry website is at joemckeever.com