My seminary professor, thesis advisor and friend has written a compelling book, recently released in time for this Advent season. In God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People throughout the Bible, Dr. Kreider traces the biblical story of God’s intentional interaction with this creation through his self-revelation that demonstrates his care, concern and particularly outreach to those who seem the most unlikely to be recipients of his blessings. I plan on doing a full review of the book both on this sites and others I contribute to. But for the time being I thought it appropriate to highlight how this theme comes through in chapter 6, “The Everlasting Incarnation of the Eternal Son” that recounts the story of Jesus’ birth and is quite the timely read for the Advent season.
Dr. Kreider points out throughout the book, and in chapter 6 especially, how God reached out to those who seemed to be beyond the acceptable crowd. He notes in the genealogy;
The ordinariness of his [Jesus’] family tree is made clear, particularly in Matthew’s genealogy. Rather than ignoring the disreputable characters in Jesus’ heritage, Matthew names them…When Matthew names characters, those familiar with their stories remember the shameful details. Perhaps more importantly, we remember that in all of these stories, God shows his grace and mercy to people who are outside the community of faith. These sinners who receive divine grace make it into the community of faith. These women are part of Jesus’ family. The child comes from a long line of unlovely people. When he comes to earth, when he becomes human, he identifies with these outcasts in order to save those who are like them (see Heb. 2) (115-6)
He recounts the story of Jesus’ birth, familiar to so many but provides a fuller dimension than your typical Christmas pageant version and goes beyond the unsavory circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy. The announcement to the shepherds is really compelling considering who they were;
These shepherds were not the well-groomed, clean, mannerly men and women who appear in church Christmas pageants today. First century shepherds were dirty; they spent their time outside, in all kinds of weather, taking care of sheep. They were ceremonially unclean; caring for animals, they dealt with injuries, illnesses, and other matters related to animal husbandry…Like the magi–although at the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum–the shepherds were outsiders in Israel. The gospel is good news for outsiders and the disenfranchised, and on the day of Jesus’ birth this good news is announced to a representative group of this kind of people. (123)