“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever had anything not go the way you were expecting? Perhaps the better question is whether or not you’ve had that happen yet today. We regularly make plans only to have to throw those plans in the trash when they bump up against the walls of reality. The real question we need to face here is not whether or not we’ve faced this disruption of intent, but what we did about it when it happened.
Mary never planned for her life to go the way it did before she got there and actually experienced it. Oh, she had plans. She was an engaged teenage girl. She had plenty of plans. But then reality—God’s reality—settled in and she had to throw all those plans in the trash. Her response to the angel was, “May it be to me according to your word,” but that didn’t mean the road ahead of her was going to be any easier. Indeed, it was not.
After nearly nine months of not just being pregnant, but being pregnant and not being able to enjoy the joy and wonder of it because of the looks and the small groups that quickly broke up as she neared and the friends who wouldn’t grin and feel her bump and a fiancé who still wouldn’t look at her the way he used to and so on and so forth, she had to go with Joseph to Bethlehem because the Empire wanted to get richer.
The journey would have been difficult to say the least. Travel of any kind in the late stages of pregnancy isn’t easy. Lisa had to travel cross country by herself when we moved from Denver to Church Road, VA when she was seven months pregnant. That wasn’t easy and it was by plane. Mary traveled by donkey on roads that would have made a gravel lane today look like a brand new highway.
And then they arrived to find there was nowhere for them to stay. This whole city and there was not so much as a guest room available. No one even had a spare spot on their floor the city was so crowded with people there for the census. The only spot available was a cave that doubled as a stable. And there among the smelly animals, with only the rough hay to make into a bed, the labor pains arrived. At this point, she probably threw up her hands in utter exasperation because after the journey she had been on just to get to this point why not deliver her baby in conditions like these?
Friends, this is how God entered our world. His welcoming party was some goats, oxen, an adoptive father, and a mother who was still only just getting her mind around what was happening and what it would mean for not just her, but the whole world. He came in such a way that nobody was going to notice except the folks who were told what to look for.
So, what does all of this mean? Jesus arrived in the lowliest of circumstances because there was going to be nothing and no one below the redemption He was bringing with Him. You aren’t beneath the gaze of His love no matter where life has taken you. No matter how far from intent your plans have drifted as reality has done its shaping work, He is ready and able to offer you the life that is truly life. He knows how you feel. He knows the hardships. He knows the frustrations of foiled plans. He knows want and need. He knows pain. He knows. He knows and He cares and He brought redemption for you.
This is the greatest reality that has broken into our fantasies of life to enable us to experience the real thing. The question we are faced with at Christmas is this: What will we do with it? Will we receive it and live, or will we continue trying to adjust reality to our whims, a game that we will only ever lose? Reality isn’t always—or ever—easy or pretty, but because it is shaped by a God who is good, it is too. God sent us His best gift at Christmas. He sent it into a mess so that every mess can be cleaned up and made right. Will you receive it? Merry Christmas and may you know this life that is truly life no matter how messy your experience of reality has become.