I wonder if Joseph and Mary worried if they had screwed everything up. Clearly, not only was everything less than ideal - a mandatory road trip when you are 9 months pregnant, going into labor away from home - but it seemed at times to be falling apart. Giving birth to your first child in a stable and placing him in a feeding trough instead of the cradle you had imagined isn’t exactly what Mary must have hoped for or what Joseph had planned.
Do you think they had moments along the way where they secretly wondered if they had heard the angel correctly, or if God had made some grave mistake in choosing them? Was He regretting His choice and frantically searching for a better alternative as they seemed to be bungling everything up? Were things supposed to go this way?
On the long journey to the stable - one that included their engagement almost ending, whispered speculations and accusations, doubt from those they loved most, a census that disrupted their calendar and reminded them how little control they had over their daily lives - did they ever wonder if God was still with them and if He was really directing their steps then why was the path so rocky?
I don’t really know , of course, if they felt or thought these things - I am just speculating through the lens of my own history of questioning God at times. When nothing seems to be going according to plan, or even according to reason, my tendency is to assume something is wrong: that in some way unbeknownst to myself, I am messing everything up or missing the direction God is giving.
Two thousand years later looking back, we can see the rich layers of beauty and fulfillment of prophecies that are held within the Christmas story. How God used what seemed to be a series of mishaps, and perhaps even failures in the minds of Mary & Joseph, to bring His Son into the world in just the right way at just the right time. But in the middle of it? In the leading up to the miracle? It might not have looked or felt that way at all to two of the main players.
One of the most precious treasures of truth from the Christmas story is that what seems to us to be falling apart or less than ideal are often the platforms where God stages His most beautiful and life-giving miracles. What seems to us to be failures and set backs are often God’s hand in disguise, positioning us to be in just the right place at just the right time to see His miraculous unfold in our lives.
Friend, don’t write off the pain, the frustration, the failures, or the struggles you might be facing as evidence that you have messed everything up or that God has given up on you. His best work most often begins in ways we didn’t expect, and in places we didn’t anticipate or wouldn’t have chosen to go to if we felt we had the choice.
God is working in ways you cannot see, through circumstances you might have never wanted, to bring to you hope you could have never imagined.
That is the story of Christmas.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
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