Unexpected Joy: The Birth of Jesus and Poverty of Spirit

In “Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected,” Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger expound upon the science of surprise.

  • Surprise: our reaction to unexpected and misexpected (Is it an emotion? A cognitive state? No one knows for sure. Surprise is mysterious like that.)
  • Schema (plural: schemata): a mental framework for understanding something.
  • Surprise sequence: Freeze, Find, Shift, Share (plug into the moment, get wildly curious, change your perspective, and talk about it with others).
  • Duh Face: the true facial expression of surprise (seemingly dopey, actually fully absorbed in the moment).

The ways of God (schema) in our world are a mystery.  Ephesians 3:2-3

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.

Essentially, the joy of life in the kingdom of heaven is unexpected because it flows from the mysteries of God.  Consider Paul’s personal difficulties in Philippians 4:11, 12 and 4

Let’s call “the administration of God’s grace” the way God manages His household (the kingdom of heaven).   In Ephesians 3:9 Paul has the responsibility to “make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery…”  Paul’s assignment is to make plain to everyone the way God manages His Household (the kingdom of heaven) with gentiles.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a revelation of the mystery of the internal life of citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus reveals how God manages His household (the kingdom of heaven).

The Sermon on the Mount is an autobiography of the King of the kingdom of heaven.  The Sermon on the Mount reveals the character, morality, and interior life of Jesus and invites us to be like Him in every way.

The Bible highlights, especially in the details of His birth, Jesus’ poverty of spirit.  2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Language is not adequate to capture the enormity of Jesus emptying Himself of divine prerogatives and becoming human.

In the birth narratives, God goes to the extreme to show His Son’s poverty of spirit.

  • Un-married and pregnant
  • Without shelter
  • Wrapped in cloths and placed in a feed trough (No where to lay his head)
  • Announced first to shepherds
  • Immigrant refugees in Egypt
  • The reason Herod slaughtered the innocent children
  • He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.
  • Beaten beyond recognition
  • Crown of thorns
  • Whipped within one stripe of death
  • Beard plucked
  • Carrying his own cross
  • Nailed to the cross
  • Spear pierced into his lungs
  • Laid in a borrowed grave.

THEN – Unexpected Joy – Matthew 28:1-10

There is unexpected joy in the (schema) mystery of being poor in spirit.

Maybe the 1951 Carol of the Drum best captures our poverty of spirit at Christmas.

Little Baby, Pa rum pum pum pum,

I am a poor boy too, Pa rum pum pum pum,

I have no gift to bring, Pa rum pum pum pum,

That’s fit to give the King, Pa rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, on my drum, Pa rum pum pum pum,

Mary nodded, Pa rum pum pum pum,

Then he smiled at me, Pa rum pum pum pum,

I am bent over as a beggar, penniless and bankrupt of any spiritual asset.

I bring nothing to the table.

My very best amounts to filthy rags.

My only spiritual hope is God.

Unexpected Joy!  For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.