Ancient Greece and Rome perceived gods and heroes aplenty, all with big egos struggling with one another cataclysmically. Judaism revealed the truth of a single all-powerful God in constant relationship with his people.

Then Jesus emerged from Jewish tradition amid Greco-Roman influence, fully God and fully human, a humble servant and teacher.

That last phrase should prompt a record scratch sound. 

The Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas, threw the world for a loop. It still does. God as an infant born into a middle class family in a provincial backwater? That burst all categories.

One lesson of Christmas is that God is full of surprises. From Abraham’s call to the Ten Commandments to the kings of Israel to the prophets, God has constantly been at work to love and guide us in new ways.

Then Jesus came, the ultimate act of divine love and relationship, showing by his humble start and stunning life how God wants us to live. Jesus came as a slave. We ought not forget how topsy-turvy that is.

Because of its very unexpectedness, the Incarnation rings true. Why would anyone make up so improbable and odd a story? Those who fashioned tales about their gods always made them imposing, not frail.

When we gaze at the creche, it is fine to sigh over the cute baby and animals. But we should also be full of shock and questions. What was God trying to do by entering humanity in that way? How do we live in response?

From our observations, it’s clear that Christmas is not merely a past event. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s an ongoing process in which God influences the world minute by minute. In short, there will be more surprises.