No one expected that the Messiah would come how he came. Yes, the people knew that at some point God would send a Savior, but they could hardly have expected that he would be born to unknown parents and that he would enter this world in a barn. They would hardly have expected that their Messiah would be born in the lowest possible circumstances.
Why was it important to God’s purpose that Jesus be born so low? There are many things that God meant to teach us through the life of Jesus, and one of them is that exaltation comes through humiliation. The way to be great in God’s eyes is to be nothing in the eyes of others.
The greatest people are those who stoop the lowest–and no one could possibly stoop lower than Jesus. And that is why Jesus was willing to be born in the way he was born. He came to serve, and there is no service that was too low for him to do. His birth would provide a glimpse of his entire life, and a fitting introduction to the kind of life he would lead. Consider these words from just a little later in the Bible:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Do you see it? Jesus could have been born to the greatest people in the greatest of circumstances. He deserved nothing less. But he meant to demonstrate that the way to be great in God’s eyes is to go low. When he was older, Jesus would say, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus had every right to every privilege and every comfort. But he rejected them all so that he could serve us. He served us by being born into this world. He served us by living a humble life in this world. He served us by being crucified out of this world. Through his birth, his life, and his death, he shows that the way to be great in God’s eyes is to go low, to love others, to serve others, to give up comfort, to give up privilege, and to do it all for God’s glory.