Christmas: A Theology of Reversal


The Son of God was born in a manger. As God's Kingdom broke into the world, he did so in utterly incomprehensible humility. After rising from the dead, Jesus calls his people to follow after him in lives of joyful-self-denial, servitude, generosity, and grace. Throughout Scripture, God makes it abundantly clear that he desires the things of this world to change, to be reversed. Upon observing the nature and actions of God, theologians will sometimes call attention to this “theology of reversal.” *

God consistently reveals himself as a God who is on the side of the weak, the least of these, the forgotten, the downtrodden, the overlooked, the marginalized, and the condemned. This doesn’t mean he intentionally overlooks wealthy people and those born in places of privilege. However, it does mean that God doesn’t show preference or favor to certain people based on one's ethnicity or where one falls in manmade systems and social classes. 

Here are a few examples of this theology of reversal…. 

In Deuteronomy 7 Moses reminds the people that God didn’t choose them because they were great in number but precisely because they were "few" and God loves the least of these.

God chose Esau (the older brother) to serve Jacob (the younger brother) (Gen. 26:27).

God chose Moses, a murderer on the run to liberate the Hebrews (Ex. 3:1-17).

God chose David, the youngest, weakest one to be king and not the other, stronger, more favorable brothers (1 Sam 16).

Over in the New Testament...

we see that the widow who gave 2 coins actually gave MORE than the wall street fat cat (Luke 21:1-4).

To the Corinthians Paul says God chose those who “Were not wise, mighty, and noble… but instead choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). 

Instead of hitting back, we’re to pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

Instead of hoarding up our wealth for ourselves, we are to be generous towards those in need (2 Cor. 8). 

Instead of puffing ourselves up and seeking power, we’re to strive to be the best foot washers in the room (Mark 10:35-45).

In Luke’s gospel, this theology of reversal is magnified to the highest degree in the birth of Jesus…

God did not send an angel to save us.

God did not send an animal sacrifice.

God did not send a to-do list nor press us to tip the scales in attempting self-justification.

In his upside-down Kingdom, God sent Jesus not to a palace with nurses, to be wrapped in purple but to a manger, surrounded with puffing beasts and buzzing flies to be swaddled and laid in a feeding trough. And in the ultimate reversal, of all people to carry Jesus in her womb, it was not a princess accustomed to luxury, God chose Mary, a poor, young, engaged girl to be the one who found favor in his sight. 

God’s thoughts are truly above our thoughts, and his ways are certainly not like our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

For a few pages on “Reversals and the Power of God”, see Michell Lee-Barnwall’s Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, pp. 76-81.