When you picture that first Christmas eve, what comes to mind?
Are there cattle lowing in the background, keeping time to the drummer boy’s beat?
Is there a quiet stillness accompanied by a heavenly glow?
And what about Mary and Joseph? Are they beaming and proud, or rumpled and rattled?
Of all the pictures we can summon, there’s probably only one thing they have in common: they’re not at all like that first Christmas eve. Trust me, I’m not out to tarnish our traditions, I’m out to give us hope for today!
Because Christ happened in the midst of the mess, not the sanctuary of the sacred!
One would think that those chosen to be honored by God would have exemplary lives. Mary would be a saint, not an unwed teenage pregnancy. Joseph would be revered, not reviled. Far from the ideal pictures on postcards, their lives were very “Un…” at the time of Jesus’ birth.
- A journey unwanted
- A baby unplanned
- A mother unwed
- A life unwound
That’s not the kind of spiel you’ll find on the inside of a Hallmark card! Yet this is the chain of events that God uses to put on flesh and live among us.
Instead of saying “Merry Christmas!” perhaps we should be saying, “Merry Curveball!”
But here’s the good news… what got Mary and Joseph through that first Christmas in the midst of the mess can get US through today’s messes. How did they do it?
In both, we see an incredible combination of faith, trust, and surrender.
- Faith – that it was God was speaking to them, and that God could pull all this off
- Trust – that God had a plan and purpose, and that it was good in the end
- Surrender – despite their personal plans, or concerns about their reputations, they laid them aside to make way for God’s plan… a plan that would save the world (and not just their corner of it!)
“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”” (Luke 1:38 NLT)
While these traits are remarkable by themselves, what’s even more remarkable is the conditions in which these traits are displayed by Mary and Joseph.
Notice, they don’t wait for things to be perfect… they don’t put conditions on God (i.e., “If you’ll make my business profitable I’ll do what you ask God”). They believe it is God, they believe it is good, and they believe God’s plan outweighs anything and everything they can come up with in their view of the world.
In other words, faith, trust, and surrender happened in the midst of the mess.
Nothing about their circumstances changed: they still had a difficult journey, their character would still be suspect, their lives would be difficult. And in the midst of all that, God was working a plan to save the world.
I’m humbled as I examine that first Christmas. I marvel at how many times I withhold faith, trust, and surrender until God “proves” that it will be OK, or until I “know” it will be alright.
And I can’t help but ask myself, what could God do in the midst of my mess, if I would have faith… trust… and surrender? And what if the very curveball that I’m cursing is part of God’s Kingdom breaking into this world?
Christmas… and life as a Jesus follower, seem to be less about perfect circumstances and more about perfect love.
Merry Curveball everyone!
Where do struggle to have faith, trust, and/or surrender? Where have you seen God work in messy circumstances to bring about good? Which occupies most of your mind… pursuing perfect conditions, or pursuing perfect love?