The birth of Jesus was and remains a mystery and also a scandal. Theologically we can call it a mystery and scandal of incarnation.
Matthew speaks about a single mother, and being born out of wedlock. Luke has Jesus born as homeless person and greeted by a bunch of rednecks (Don’t believe those bucolic caricatures! Shepherds were rough people.).
The gospel of John opens with a sophisticated hymn full of sublime concepts of Platonic and Stoic philosophy. And then John throws in a surprising coda, “The Word became flesh and dwell among us.” There could hardly be a statement more contradictory and scandalous in those times! The sublime essence of divinity and order (LOGOS) becoming a piece of flesh (SARX - just imagine it as a piece of flesh in the butcher shop).
John does not stop there, he continues his revolutionary provocation. This Word became flesh and it dwelled among us - but we should dare a more accurate translation - “It pitched its tent among us.”Clearly, this statement does not speak about a summer camping trip. This is about something more serious! Didn’t we ourselves hear this autumn about “grave dangers” and “the serious antisocial nature” of camping in public spaces and on university campuses? Didn’t a few campers provoke our political establishment to mobilize federal agencies and hundreds of riot police and even helicopters? You see, from Moses' Ohel Moed (The Tent of Meeting - a symbolical presence of God who liberates from slavery) through a mystery of incarnation until now “pitching a tent among us” still preserves this provocative edge. Pitched tents are and always have been more than just a place to stay; they represent ideas, they unsettle and pose important questions.
Come this Sunday (Christmas Day) to wonder over, and be transformed by this marvelous provocative image, God’s presence among us in the tent!