And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn...
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:7, 34-35 (ESV)
Nothing about Jesus' birth was ordinary, nor did His arrival occur in the way many expected it to. His parents were not wealthy or well-known. They were not married when He was conceived. At His birth, Mary did not enjoy even rudimentary comforts or help beyond her husband. These facts alone are an affront to what many believed and continue to believe about how the Messiah's arrival should look.
When Jesus was presented at the temple, Simeon's words affirmed what all of Scripture tells us about Messiah: unlike the conquering king so many pictured, Jesus divided people, turning manmade constructs on their heads and standing opposed to those who had become sure of themselves and their own plans.
Mary, Joseph, and Simeon were blessed because they trusted that God's design was better than what they had pictured and His ways were better than theirs. This Christmas, as in every year, we rightly celebrate the birth of our Savior, but as we mark the humble arrival of God with us, let us also consider what His coming means for the world and our own hearts. The words of this carol remind us of the thread that connects His birth to His ultimate death and resurrection to accomplish our redemption: "The holly bears a berry as red as any blood, and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good."
In our hearts and the hearts of many who have come before, Jesus has mercifully divided, turned things upside down, and opposed the sin that threatens to enslave us. The Nativity certainly is important, but it is only one chapter in the beautiful story of how God wins back those He loves. Merry Christmas!