Shepherds peered down at a baby. The God of the universe had donned flesh and finally arrived. This was no parade of boisterous glory or overwhelming riches. There was no miraculous scene of sparkly pomp or flashy circumstance. Instead, a tiny human displayed God himself in the unlikeliest of places. 

This isn’t how I would have introduced my Savior. In fact, I would even call it counterintuitive. Meaning, it’s contrary to our common-sense expectations. We’d expected a warrior-king in all his glory, but instead we got a vulnerable baby in a dingy animal stall. 

The sovereign God of the universe sent his Saving Grace as a defenseless, tiny child. 

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-13

It appeared ordinary, but in reality, Great Joy had arrived. 

Jesus’ birth turns the tawdry ideas of our sinful flesh upside down. He shocks us with an unorthodox entrance roaring with kindness, mercy and humility from our perfect God. The author of redemption chose Christmas to display this radical grace and authorship, his methods, his glory and his victory in ways differently than we would naturally expect. 

God’s Wisdom is Counterintuitive

King Jesus came through labor pain to a poor woman, repurposing earthly hardship for heavenly glory. “God works in our suffering.” “God’s power is displayed in our weaknesses.” Our hearts bristle against these truths because we want ease and comfort. We don’t like tragedies and sorrow, but God’s wisdom says there’s joy in trials because it produces what we need (James 1:2-4). God takes circumstances we hate and leverages them on the Christian’s behalf. He uses cancer and divorce. He uses rejection and abuse. He uses car crashes and failed tests. Christmas displays God’s wisdom in using adversity for our good. 

God’s Story is Counterintuitive

Because God’s wisdom is perfect, his stories are different than mine. If I had devised Mary’s labor and delivery, I wouldn’t have chosen an animal shelter. My last baby arrived . . . quickly. One minute I was hanging out in my living room and in the next, nurses were yelling for a doctor. There was no time for medication and I’m always a fan of the least amount of pain possible. But it’s through grief that God shows himself in ways we would never otherwise see. Painful labor in childbirth comes before the beautiful joy of childbirth. This is true for delivering a baby, it’s also true for delivering our hearts. Only in God’s story does grief produce love. 

God’s Grace is Counterintuitive

God didn’t pick earthly kings and queens to hear about his rescue plan. He chose folks working the night shift making sure no roaming creature got a hold of their sheep. God writes his redemption story like this on purpose. As Christmas commenced, he brought grace to the lowly. Our wicked flesh desires position and status different than those whom God chooses: the weak. Christmas teaches us to recognize our all-encompassing lowliness so that we can find his all-encompassing grace. 

God’s Displays of Glory Are Counterintuitive   

In the significant moment after the birth of our king, Mary quietly pondered the things of her Savior (Luke 2:18). Mary’s heart displayed God’s glory through peaceful obedience. She didn’t rise to defend her pregnancy or seek to be the center of attention at the birth of her king. She trusted God in the quietness of her heart. Similarly, Mary’s baby displayed unexpected glory: a humble baby as the answer to the entire world’s sin. Christmas teaches us who we are through the glory of that simple newborn: unlikely humans created to mirror a King’s glory.  

God’s Victory is Counterintuitive 

The angels rejoiced and sang about earthly peace “among those with whom he is pleased!” It begs the question, with whom is God pleased? He’s please with those who recognize their inability of goodness apart from Jesus. The son of God put on flesh and lived perfectly. After displaying himself as our perfect Savior, he died a gruesome death. He overcame sin and hell forever. He conquered death and walked out of his tomb. Opposite of what I deserve, God offers me the honor of being his child because this baby, born to the virgin Mary on Christmas morning, was obedient to the point of death. Christmas is the beginning of Jesus’ perfect submission leading to triumph over sin and death.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

This is how God displays hope in Christmas. He could have saved us instantly, instead he sent a child. His ways being naturally counterintuitive to mine brings comfort that he’s always doing something I can’t understand. Jesus’ birth story teaches that his ways are truly higher than mine. It reminds me that when life is different than how I desire it to be, I can rest in the perfect Author of my life. Because Jesus came as a helpless baby, I can expect shockingly good things to come from places and circumstances I would never orchestrate myself. This is the counterintuitive hope of Christmas.