“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee” Luke 1.26
Nazareth. God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth? For many people of Mary’s day to link God, the angel Gabriel and Nazareth, would have merited italics and a question mark rather than a comma.
Nazareth in Galilee is the place that they would have least expected God to be concerned about let alone active in. Unmarried. Virgin. Nazareth. Galilee. Messiah. God. Gabriel. The last three have no connection with the first four terms – at least in the eyes of the people of that time.
Nazareth, in fact the whole Galilee area, wasn’t exactly the most sought after location for a first century Jew.
It had a reputation for being on the fringes of Israel that went way back in its history. Geographically it was on the edges of Israel. And its spirituality seemed to mirror its geography. It never did seem to attain the kind of pedigree that prevailed in the rest of the land; Jews and gentiles lived side by side.
In King Solomon’s time, it had been one of a number of towns used to pay off Hiram, king of Tyre (1 Kings 9.11). When Hiram inspected his new portfolio, he was outraged that Solomon would treat him so shabbily with the present of such down at heel territories (1 Kings 9.12-13). One can imagine what that did for the collective self-esteem.
Yet Galilee of the gentiles was where God sited His greatest intervention in history. In fact, surprising though it seemed, if anyone had cared to read Isaiah and take his prophecies seriously, they would have found that he predicted this very thing (Isaiah 9).
God often works where we least expect Him and in ways we least expect Him. It usually surprises us. But it shouldn’t. That’s what God is like.
Sometimes we can approach Christmas with a sense of inevitability – or even foreboding. Inevitable rush. Inevitable expenditure. Inevitable overeating. Perhaps an inevitable fall out (hope not!). Inevitable carol services. An inevitable attempt to be spiritual crushed by an all-encompassing materialism. Christmas can be the time when we least expect God to work.
But God is the God who works in Nazareth. In Galilee. In the darkness. On the fringes. Why not expect God to work where you least expect Him to this Christmas?