The birth of Christ astonishes us.

And not only the birth itself but the way in which God decided to present his Son’s birth to the world. With no big-budget marketing plan, social media campaign, or paid TV spots during the Super Bowl, the Lord chose an unsuspecting group of shepherds to introduce good news of great joy that will be for all people. Imagine how overwhelmed these poor shepherds must have been as a multitude of otherworldly angels appeared in the dark of night, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV). We are caught in the throes of wonder when we consider the scale of this spectacle that God arranged for so few people so lacking in cultural influence.

But then we remember Mary, Joseph, a manger, and some animals. A scene that would make most parents shudder if they had to contemplate a birth this simple and obscure. As we grasp to envision these things, we remember that God’s idea of his Son’s divine childbirth did not include the extravagance and excess that we insist on to illustrate influence and importance.

In God’s transcendent economy, lowliness is how he wants us to understand godliness, to understand his Son. As Philippians describes, “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (2:6–7, ESV).

God’s astonishing announcement scheme will not likely be featured in leadership books, strategic seminars, or influencer videos for how to boost your brand, gain more followers, and advance your platform. God does something far more bewildering. He sanctifies our comprehension and unravels our values in a very particular way, so that our hearts beat with a pulse that is continuously less in sync with the rhythms of the world.

He shares an origin story of peculiar happenings like this, so that thousands of years later, we might treasure and ponder like Mary and return like these shepherds, glorifying and praising God for all we have seen and heard.

Will you lower yourself like Jesus? Will you be led like these shepherds? Will you stop seeing your life as a series of random, dumb-luck circumstances and open your eyes to the astonishing ways God is moving in the ordinary moments of your life?

Look around, because the glory of the Lord is shining upon you to fill you with great fear, so that you may experience his great peace.

Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio. He also serves as Director of Leader Renewal for Harbor Network and is the author of seven books.

This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at

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