Sunday, December 1, 2013

And the Days Were Accomplished...

Today marks the beginning of one of my favorite times of year...Christmas!  It's been a long struggle to get back to the feeling of joy during this season.  After losing my mom in 2008, Christmas lost a lot of its joy for me.  I had so many wonderful memories with my mom like putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, baking more goodies than we had table to put them on, going shopping and laughing over lunch and sharing Christmas morning with my dad, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we opened gifts.  I so miss those moments with her, but I'm so glad I have those moments to look back on.  And I'm thankful that the joy is returning...

Life takes us through twists and turns.  Some exhilarating and wonderful.  Others...not so much.  But everything that comes into our life has a purpose.  Even those not so pleasant moments.  God uses them all to weave our lives into the tapestry He is creating.  And the way in which He weaves and the timing He has prepared are perfect...even when we can't see that with our earthly eyes.  And so it was with the birth of Jesus...

Luke 2:1-10
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

When we look back on the story of the birth of Christ, we see such a beautiful expression of love and compassion and God's provision.  However, Mary and Joseph didn't have the luxury of "looking back" and seeing God's weaving of the threads of the story.  They were smack in the middle of it.  Mary was nine months pregnant and about to pop when the decree went out that they had to travel to a far away city.  And the trip would take place with her riding on the back of a donkey.  Now, I've not yet had the privilege of carrying a child.  However, I can assure you that riding on a donkey for miles and miles while being in the latter stage of pregnancy could not have been fun.  But the struggle doesn't end there. You would think that God would have provided a nice, warm, soft place in which His Son would be from dust and dirt and the smell of animal poop.  But after the long ride...on the back of a donkey...nine months pregnant...Mary goes into labor.  I can only imagine poor Joseph frantically trying to find somewhere for his wife to give birth and finding the only place is in a barn with the animals.  

I wonder...  I wonder if Mary and Joseph questioned what God was doing.  Or if they questioned that they had really heard what the angel had said correctly.  Surely when Mary found out she was carrying God's Son she imagined that giving birth would have been a lot different from what it turned out to be (a common thought still today...that we think life will turn out a lot differently than it does).  I'm sure Joseph, when he accepted God's call to care for Mary and the baby, had no thought that he would be running around trying to find somewhere for them to stay.   But even in the midst of what probably seemed like chaos, God was in control of it all and was weaving the most beautiful story ever told.  

One of my favorite parts of these verses is Luke 2:6..."the days were accomplished that she should be delivered..."  The days were accomplished.  Now, I love to read verses from different translations of the Bible.  It helps with understanding that old English sometimes.  However, the way the King James Version says it here says it best to me.  It shows that God had His plan all along...that He had been working out each and every detail for the birth of His Son.  It wasn't happenstance.  It wasn't chance.  It wasn't some surprise or caught Him off guard.  The days were accomplished.  Jesus was born at just the time and in just the way God planned.  And the way He had planned makes the gift of Jesus accessible to us all...regardless of financial status, race, gender, social status.  He came to us in a lowly manger surrounded by hay and animals and dirt and whatever else is found in a barn full of animals.  There were no doctors or nurses.  No hospital.  No monitors.  No clean linens or sanitized medical equipment.  And yet, the miracle of Jesus' birth went off without a hitch.  

And God can do the same in our lives.  Sometimes in the middle of the madness, in the center of the chaos, we can lose our focus.  We can forget that the days are being accomplished...that God is weaving the tapestry of our lives.  And we can lose our joy.  But if God took so much care and preparation and planning down to the minute detail to bring us the form of a baby being born in a the middle of what seemed like chaos, how much more will He provide all we need.  And that should bring us joy unspeakable.   Even in the moments when we wonder what in the world is going on...He is there.  Working behind the scenes.  Moving things into place.  Changing our hearts.  Molding us to be more like Him.  And His plan is perfect!

So as this Christmas season begins, my prayer is that we will all be able to find joy...even in the midst of uncertainty.  The God who gave us the gift of His Son longs to give us the gift of His love each and every day.  We can trust that He knows what He is doing.  We can believe that when "the days are accomplished" He will work out His perfect will in our lives.  Just as Mary and Joseph trusted God for the impossible, may we find joy in trusting Him to do the same for us.  

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