They used to say that nothing good could come from Nazareth. But he came anyway. It's not what anyone had expected. The longed for Messiah, the Saviour of the Israel did not come with a crown of gold or purple robe to release the oppressed, neither sword nor armoured guard to defeat the powers of darkness.
Oh, he triumphed and brought liberty, yes. But in the most unexpected of ways.
By going low. By becoming a small child. By identifying with brokenness. By transforming our frame.
This God sought to identify with the weakest and worst. Born a refugee to teenage Mary [meaning "bitter"], his very name, Yeshua [meaning "deliverance"], promised hope to an oppressed nation.
We call him Emmanuel, "God with us". He is God incarnate, literally "enfleshed". Where the presence of God used to dwell in the tabernacle, the presence of God now dwelt in the God-man Jesus who dwelt, or as John 1 says "tabernacled" or "pitched his tent", among us.
He loved us and demonstrated this by becoming like us. He took on our condition, our limitations, our frailty, and our mortality, and so validated our existence. This One, the Almighty God became poor and weak to lift up the poor and weak. He mixed himself in the mess of our world and so concerned himself with us in order to transform and redeem us.
They've always said that nothing good comes out of Possil. But we've come anyway.
It's not the kind of mission you'd expect. We haven't come with fancy programs to win crowds of people or foolproof strategies to end the cycle of poverty.
But we long, oh we long for these people, our friends. And we long, yes we long, for the cycle of poverty to be upset. But we do this in unexpected ways.
We seek to identify with the weakest and the unworthy. Those the world deems last, on whom the world has given up hope.
We are incarnational. [Though I hesitate to apply that word to us. There is, of course, only one incarnation. We will not deliver these people; only Christ will.] We have chosen to dwell here, to move into the neighbourhood and concern ourselves with these people to identify with them, to befriend them, to transform this place.
We are called to love, and we have chosen to demonstrate our love by becoming like them. We have taken on their condition, limitations, frailty, dangers, and fears as our own so that in the end, this place and these people are validated. We mix ourselves in their mess so that in the end "they" becomes "us" because we see that their mess is indeed the mess which we all find inside ourselves.
This One, who is fully God and yet fully man, has assumed our frame and healed us. Though entirely like us, he is at the same time entirely unlike us.
And this is good news because it means that he not only validates, but also perfects, forgives, covers, heals, redeems, transforms that which is lacking and broken in us. He not only knows what it's like, he's come to make it better. If he were not God, if he had not assumed our humanity, we could not be saved or freed from the condition in which we find ourselves. But in Christ, divinity is united with humanity and thereby heals our humanity, brings us back into wholeness and relation to the Father, and proclaims another way.
And so he proved them wrong. Because in the end, something, no, Someone good came out of Nazareth.
And this is good news because he is working the same thing in each of us. He is making something good out of us, making beauty out of dust. Over and over, and over and over, this is the story God writes in me, in you, in all things in all people in all places in all times.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour.