“You’re weird!” she blurted out to me. I was in the fifth grade and was trying to win a young girl’s affection. Her remark assaulted my confidence, so I slunk away hot-faced with embarrassment. I thought about this incident recently when I participated in a special Jews for Jesus outreach in New York City. One of the slogans our team came up with caught my attention as well as that of many New Yorkers: “Keeping Jewish weird since 32 a.d.” We focused our efforts primarily on three college campuses: New York University, Baruch College and Brooklyn College. We wore it on T-shirts, used it in literature and in social media. So I certainly needed to have the meaning of this particular slogan explained to me and perhaps you do as well.
What I discovered is that for young people today, weird has a positive, not a negative, connotation. To be called weird is considered a badge of honor. Weird now means different and unique—qualities which younger audiences value and identify with. They want a break from the expected, standard conventions of society. We adapted our slogan from a movement in the more hipster cities of Portland and Austin. They employed the expressions, “Keeping Austin Weird” and “Keeping Portland Weird” as positive statements for younger residents. I witnessed first-hand how our “Keeping Jewish Weird” slogan made a favorable impression on many Jewish college students in New York. People who were curious about our statement would stop and ask us for an explanation. One Jewish student came up to me and said, “I just love this. I have one of your cards on my bulletin board in my dorm room.” Over and over again, our catchphrase became a prompt for in-depth gospel conversations (see pages 6–7 of this newsletter).
I became intrigued by this evolving concept of “weird.” I discovered that this “newer” definition is actually more in keeping with the original old English meaning of the word, initially spelled “wird,” but always pronounced as we do today. The meaning not only described something as unique and different, but it also intimated an element of the supernatural—something to do with a special act of God.
As I reflected on this and considered the meaning of our Advent season, at the risk of sounding irreverent, it seems appropriate for us to say that the incarnation of our Messiah Jesus was weird. Stop and think about it. The fact that the Creator of all heaven and earth was willing to humble Himself and take upon Himself the form of sinful humanity, that He entered this world uninvited and mostly unwelcomed in order to save us from our sin—this is astounding, unique and supernatural. Only God could do something so unexpected and different and loving and yes—weird—and we should be praising and thanking Him for it every day.
Unfortunately, most people do not see, nor do they understand, the wonder of the incarnation. If they do acknowledge the season, they are caught up in the more mundane, banal, “non-weird” elements of the holidays. We have a powerful opportunity to communicate God’s story this month. Now I am not suggesting we print up T-shirts and literature with a slogan, “Making Advent Weird since 3 b.c. give or take a year,”* but I would like to think we could convey in a fresh sense the wonder, the unique and awesome truths of God’s grace in the birth of Christ.
It seems to me that those who hear the claims of Scripture concerning the incarnation have a choice as to whether they believe it is weird, or truly weird. Many people believe the incarnation to be weird in the sense of my elementary school understanding of the word. I remember one time several years ago, while handing out literature, I was approached by a Jewish skeptic who challenged me, “Do you really believe Jesus was God?” “Yes, I do,” I responded. “Well,” he smirked, “don’t you think it strange that God had to have his mother change His diapers?” I was initially taken aback by the irreverent tone and manner in which his challenge was put to me and I simply answered, “No, I don’t have a problem with it.”
I wish I could have that moment back, because this man didn’t realize that in his sarcasm he was actually approaching the unique truth behind the glory of the incarnation and the wonder of the gospel. I would have liked to have told my cynical passerby, “You have touched on the most phenomenal part of this story, something the Jewish Scriptures actually foretold. The prophets indicated that the Messiah Himself would be born a human being, and that He would experience every aspect of human flesh—all in order that God might lovingly rescue His lost creation, people like you and me. More than the normal indignities of diapers, through this incredible event Messiah became a man in order to suffer all the humiliations we humans can undergo in this life, even that He would be despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53).
Think about the rejection and pain Jesus endured and all that eventually led Him to the cross. He knows our pain because He carried it. He knows our rejection because He endured it. It was because Jesus was rejected that we can now be accepted by God. His humiliation and rejection purchased our salvation, our forgiveness of sin and our welcome into God’s presence. Because of this we can have the hope of spending forever in His presence where there will be no more tears, no more pain and no more rejection. So diapers are the least challenging part of the story for me to believe about Jesus. It is just a very small detail in the demonstration of the deep, abiding love of God for you and for me.”
I don’t know that this man would have stuck around to hear my answer, but I am praying the Lord will give each one of us many opportunities to tell this weird and wonderful story in the days to come. Let’s pray that He does and that many hearts would be open to receive God’s greatest gift to humanity—Yeshua—His salvation.
*Historians and calendar experts originally got it wrong and now most believe Jesus was actually born 3 or 4 b.c.