October 25, 2009 Stu Andrews

A Humble Birth, No Hollywood Paparazzi

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” (Romans 11:33)

Although we may think that the biggest news events in the world have all occurred in the last generation, all of them seem to pale into insignificance in the light of the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ. If you have ever dared to imagine a news event that could possibly overshadow the landing of the first man on the moon, then God’s announcement that He was about to set foot on earth certainly fits into that category.

Of course, if modern advertising agencies had been given the brief for this event they would have bombarded us with constant thirty-second promotions on TV and plastered posters on  billboards all around the world. The newspapers would have run feature ads and radio talk back hosts would have discussed it for weeks.

However, when God sent His Son as the savior of the world, the Bible records it in a most understated way. As Luke tells the story, it takes place in the most unlikely circumstances. One scholar wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “the story of the Virgin Birth is about an astounding happening taking place in a ‘nobody’, in a ‘nothing town’, in the middle of nowhere.”

Why would someone make such an observation? The answer to that question is found in the fact that the angel Gabriel made a special appearance to a thirteen or fourteen year old girl called Mary in a town called Nazareth. Not only was Mary very young by our standards, but she came from an entirely forgettable location. Nazareth is hardly known in pre-Christian writings. The only reason we even know about it is because Jesus grew up there. It was a rundown, half-way stop between the ports of Tyre and Sidon, and Nathaniel wasn’t kidding when he said to Phillip, “Nazareth? Can anything good come out of that hole?” Nazareth was hardly a blue-ribbon Jewish electorate, having been overrun by Gentiles and Romans in previous centuries.  Martin Luther understood Luke’s point in mentioning Mary and Nazareth when he said, “God might have gone to Jerusalem and picked out the high priest’s daughter who was fair and rich… But God preferred a lowly maid from a mean town.”

Why does Luke focus on the fact that Mary was a common girl in an unknown town?  Surely his point is that God comes to needy sinners – people who know that they are weak and have nothing to boast about. Neither Mary nor Nazareth had anything to commend them. Yet Nazareth was a place where needy people lived, and God, in his infinite wisdom, sent Jesus to such a place to confound the wisdom of this world.