Day 29: The Wonder of the Ordinary

Have you ever been struck by the nondescript, matter-of-fact telling of the Christmas story in Matthew 1? I could only imagine my response if one of my students handed in story with similar lines: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” “Now the birth of Jesus came about in this way.” “And they returned to their own country another way.” No suspense at the beginning. Nothing about the emotions of the protagonist. No dialogue, drama, or foretelling.

Of course, I’m not suggesting the Christmas story is bad writing. (In fact, the Bible is the greatest piece of literature ever written). Far from it, the very colorless, ordinary nature of the Christmas story is designed to evoke wonder. Immediately, from the first sentence, the story cries out that this not your average adventure novel. In one sense, it’s not a story of battles, adventures, and knights in shining armor. In the grander story of redemption – what truly is the greatest plot of all time – God chose to place His Son in the most ordinary backdrop imaginable. His father was an ordinary carpenter, from the ordinary village of Bethlehem, betrothed to an ordinary girl probably set up by an arranged marriage. The birth itself was ordinary, no midwives, no drama recorded, only a reeking barn, noisy animals, and scratching, bug-infested straw.

For that was precisely the point of the incarnation. Christ left all of heaven’s glory, with the never-ending, endlessly interesting, all-satisfying relationship within the Trinity to become a man, thus adopting the sheer ordinariness that makes up much of human life. To become fully man, he had to subject himself to the same dependencies that tie us down to the routine: the limitation of time and schedules, the need to eat three times each day, the need for day-in, day-out labor to provide basic necessities, the requirement of regular sleep.

Christ adopting the ordinariness of everyday life on earth – that is the wonder of the incarnation. Christ stepping down to relate to man through experiencing the same daily struggles, the same fatigue, the same suffering — that is infinite reason to worship.

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