I can't imagine today that anyone in our country has grown up without some passing knowledge of Jesus. Having said that I am pretty certain that most people have a fairly sketchy view of the basic information.
I recall once taking an assembly at a primary school and being informed by one of the younger pupils that the mother of Jesus was Mary Mandolin; which to be honest sounds more like a 60's folk singer than a Blessed Virgin.
Given his fame over the past two-thousand years it is interesting to consider that in his lifetime Jesus was relatively unknown. For sure a few thousand people in Palestine had heard of him but in many ways he was irrelevant to most of the world's population.
The incarnation sees God becoming man in relative obscurity; he could have chosen to become a Roman emperor but preferred to be the child of an unknown maiden.
The following decades saw his fame travel across the known world but his incarnation was rooted in hiddeness.
There were other babies born to young Jewish girls. He was just one of many carpenters. He would have been compared with other travelling Rabbis of his day. His cross would have blended into the background of the numerous crucified trouble causers on the hill of Golgotha. Even his resurrection was somewhat understated in that he could be mistaken for a gardener.
I write this not to undermine his significance but to highlight the hiddeness chosen by God in bringing hope to the world. This was God becoming like us not highlighting some kind of cosmic divide. God became so part of our story that he was able to feel our pain.
Consider this in stark contrast to the way that we evangelicals see success in a church context. We call for distinctive lines and a sense of being separate from the 'world'. We categorise people as being either 'in' or 'out'. We tell stories that emphasise that we are different.
I wonder whether our mission should be to discover the sacred place of Hiddenness? To look like other people. For our churches to merge into the background of life a little more.
Our ecclesiology makes us want to celebrate those who have done notable exploits for God; planted churches, written books, composed worship songs, run missionary organisations.
By doing so perhaps we miss those who are hidden yet still bringing the kingdom of God to their communities in an unnoticed way.
The single mother who fights to give her children a better quality of life. The worker who shows diligence in producing quality product. The project leader who draws lonely people into community. The person struggling through failure trying to make a fresh start.
None of these make the headlines but it doesn't mean that they are incidental in God's plan. It is tempting to think that the more visible expressions of church are the most successful. Perhaps, however, it is those churches who become so close to their communities that they are able to feel the pain of the world that truly mirror the incarnate God.