I’m very aware as I write this article, that by the time you read it our family plans for Christmas may well have had to change. I feel like every conversation I’m having with people involves the phrases lateral flow, PCR, or booster jab. I did expect this Christmas to be different from last year. Maybe that was naïve of me. And yet, here we are in another Christmas period full of uncertainty due to Covid-19. It’s most likely Jesus was born in September – I’m starting to think we should move Christmas!

Despite my gloominess, I’ve been challenged this week to remember that Christmas is about the unexpected. The Christmas adverts might make us think that Christmas always goes to plan, but most of us have a story of when our best Christmas plans were interrupted.

I remember one Christmas when I was growing up, we’d opened our presents, been dragged to church and were now sitting down to a lovely looking Christmas dinner. Up to this point, a normal Christmas day for our family. We were tucking into our food, when suddenly, we heard some screaming and shouting from the garden…

We turned to look at what was happening, and it was quite a sight to behold! Next door’s dog had escaped into our garden. This was not the spectacle. Our neighbours had clearly started their drinking early that Christmas and the screaming and shouting was two fairly inebriated adults running around our garden trying to catch their dog. The woman who lived next door was wearing her Christmas present, some new nightwear. And unfortunately, the present wasn’t a set of cosy pyjamas! Christmas doesn’t always go to plan.


The story of Christmas has unexpected people and events wherever you look. Mary didn’t expect to be pregnant, and Joseph certainly didn’t expect her to be either. The shepherds didn’t expect to have their night interrupted by angels, and society at that time didn’t expect angels to appear to shepherds. The magi expected to follow a star, but did they expect it to lead them to a dirty stable? And most of all, no one expected God to become human.

"The magi expected to follow a star, but did they expect it to lead them to a dirty stable?"

As with any story we’ve heard countless times, we can become very comfortable with the story of the nativity. We like the idea of a cute baby Jesus being born in a stable. We rightly find comfort that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. But when we put those two parts of the story together, we find the unexpected scandal of Christmas – the cute baby in the manger is God with us.

The baby in a manger is the one through whom all things were created; the baby in a manger is the one who willingly dies on the cross for me and for you. At Christmas I’m struck by the humility and vulnerability of God, who made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Jesus reveals a God who is tender but not fragile, strong but not cruel, humble but not weak, holy yet approachable.

I’m not a big fan of the unexpected. I find comfort in having plans and things going according to those plans. However, life doesn’t always go to plan and God does not always work in the ways we expect. The Christmas story is full of the unexpected but it’s also bursting with hope because amid the unexpected, Jesus reveals a God who we can trust, a Father who keeps His promises.

Whatever this Christmas looks like, I hope amid the unexpected, you experience the presence of the God who came to be with us.