Did God engineer a setting to provide the perfect entry point for the Son to enter into the world? As far as I can see, the answer has to be that God did nothing of the kind. The wailing of the children of Sodom, the grief of Hagar and the depredations of her son’s sons, the deaths of Tamar’s husbands, the famine of Jacob’s people, the ferocity of the Pharaohs and their vainglorious architecture, the plagues that devastated without moral discrimination, the flood that engulfed a pursuing army and orphaned a multitude, the slaughter at the foot of Mount Sinai, the genocide of the Hittites and Amorites, the rivers of blood that flowed from David’s sword and the avaricious and cruel tyranny of his most famous son, the establishment of an industrialized slaughterhouse at the center of God’s worship, the merciless waves of bestial armies ravaging each other over centuries, the torture of the wise, the murder of the good, the unrelieved sorrow of countless mothers…these were all part of the peaceful Bethlehem setting. Did God stage manage all of that? The thought is unthinkable, at least by me.

It’s late spring as I write, and birdlings are hopping around the ground and making their first short flights as their observant parents stand guard. Only a few weeks back, the parents were busily constructing the nests that would cradle their young. The birds did certainly engineer the nests, but they did not engineer the trees. They just made use of the trees.

And this is true of nature in general. Even people only engineer the nest into which their children are born; they do not engineer the world.

God had to enter the world somewhere, at some time. And just because it was God’s entrance, that place and time became the most important place and the most important time. But it is a profound mistake to think that we should therefore seek to comprehend God by the categories of that place and that time.

To represent the death of Jesus as a sacrificial atonement is perhaps the most egregious example of where that mistake can lead.

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