Have you ever thought about how many things went wrong from Joseph and Mary’s perspective in that first Christmas? how many things did not go “according to plan?” how many things looked like disasters on the surface? And yet it was all happened just as HE planned it, wasn’t it? We know it was perfect, though it didn’t feel so perfect to them. Think about the apparent crises and major disruptions:
1- an unplanned pregnancy
2- public humiliation because of assumptions of sexual immorality
3- a broken engagement as a result of a misunderstanding
4- unplanned meetings with scary angels (and if you don’t think they were scary, then why do they always began by saying “Do not be afraid”?)
5- having to travel 70 miles on foot to Bethlehem (probably Mary rode on a donkey, but have you ever thought about how uncomfortable it would be to travel that far on a donkey while nine months pregnant?)
6- no rooms available at the Bethlehem Inn
7- giving birth in a stable
8- unplanned hospitality on account of visits from strangers like the shepherds and the magi
9- having a prophet (Simeon) tell you that your child would be opposed by many and that a sword would pierce your own soul also
10- being woken up in the middle of the night by an angel and being told to leave immediately because the ruler is searching for your child to destroy Him
11- having to move to an unknown land (Egypt) with no warning, and getting there on foot (about 300 miles) with a toddler in tow (who happens to be the Son of God)
12- hearing the news of children who were killed because the murderers were looking for your son
13- living in a foreign land without knowing anyone, out of fear for your child’s life
14- returning on foot to a land where the ruler is the brother of (It turned out to be a longer trip than originally planned — after traveling the 300 miles, God told them to add another 70 miles onto their trip and return all the way to Nazareth in Galilee.) still with a toddler in tow, possibly one or two babies as well (Remember Mary and Joseph ended up having at least eight children – see Matt.13:55-56.)
If God ordained so many scary surprises and daunting detours during the original Christmas, what makes us think that He will not do the same with our Christmases?
Do we think that the success of our Christmas is wrapped up in getting everything done? Is it measured by how well our plans get implemented? It seems to me that what God desires of us is that we seek first His kingdom, that we love Him in our hearts, and have love in our hearts toward the people God has put around us, especially our families, even when our plans go awry, even when our to-do list is frighteningly undone.
Just like Mary and Joseph, we have a treasure we carry around (2Cor.4:7), more valuable than anything else. And the thing that matters isn’t whether our plans succeed or our to-do lists get completed. The only thing that matters is that we are trusting in the Lord as He protects the Treasure which we hold in jars of clay.
Do we expect God to cooperate with our plans and expectations? Recently I heard a great joke: Question: How do you make God laugh? Answer: Make a plan. Just because we’re out of control doesn’t mean God is. Just because it looks like chaos has broken out, it doesn’t mean God has lost control. Just like with original Christmas story, sometimes in our most chaotic moments, God is doing a spectacular thing.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)