I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about the kingdom of God. “If an alien would arrive on the planet and look around to decide who was the King here, it certainly wouldn’t look like it’s Jesus,” she commented. I’ve been thinking about this statement a lot this Advent season.
Perhaps I’ll (we’ll) never fully understand why God chooses to work the way He does. Why does He always seem to choose the quiet, hidden ways of working in the world?
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given,” we sing. And silent it was.
At Jesus’ first coming, He, the timeless God, broke into time to the moans of a woman in labor. Angels announced His arrival, but their message was heard by social outcasts who smelled ripe of animals. He, the rightful divine King of Israel, was welcomed by pagan wise men of other kingdoms and sought out to be murdered by his own.
He was the supposed-illegitimate son of a teenage peasant girl, who was newly married to a carpenter from the backwoods of a great empire. He was a child of a people who had been ruled and dominated by superpowers for centuries.
To anyone looking on, the baby boy Jesus in the manger was a nobody. But this simple Jewish boy was the Son of God, Israel’s Messiah, the Savior of the world, God veiled in human flesh.
At that first coming, He was hidden. But He was not invisible. He could be seen by those who were looking for him. He could be seen by those who were humble enough to receive him.
By Mary, willing to endure the shame and risk of an unmarried pregnancy, ready to be the servant of the Lord.
By Joseph, obedient to an angelic dream.
By the shepherds, who received the first news of Jesus’ birth and were His first missionaries.
By Simeon and Anna in the temple, who had waited long and faithfully for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
He still works this way—in faith as small as a mustard seed, in a treasure hidden in a field, in child-like trust. He chose—and chooses—disciples who are unworthy and ill-equipped and calls them to follow. He works now, quietly, often hidden…but not invisible.
Why does He choose this way? Is it to call us to deeper faith? Is it to not overwhelm us with His might? Is it because He knows our hearts must be won gently, with sacrifice, not with power and coercion? I don’t know.
But I do know that it calls me to humility, to remember that “He chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:27-28).
It calls me to faith, to trust in His slow work, to look with eyes of faith to see where He’s working.
And it calls me to hope in that second coming, for the day when He will return and be seen by every eye. For the day when there will be no doubt who is King.