On Shattered Plans…

She was planning a wedding, dreaming about the future with her soon-to-be husband.
He owned his own business and made enough money to provide for them in a modest way.
She dreamt of her cozy little house, in the same village where she grew up, near her relatives.
And, one day, some little boys and girls running around with their father’s eyes and her smile.

He was dreaming, too.
Or really, planning was a better word.
He had secured his bride, a godly woman with a heart of gold.
And he looked forward to the days when he could teach his sons all that his father had taught him about his trade.
He could provide a good life for his family.
They would never be rich.
But it was enough.

Simple lives.
In a simple village.
With simple, reasonable expectations.

Until all that was shattered.
The angel’s words twisted Mary’s dreams in a completely different direction.
He called her “highly favored”.
And said that she would be the mother of a boy but that God would be his father.
God.
Not Joseph.

And then the twisting went a little deeper when Joseph did not believe her.
He truly believed she had been unfaithful to him.
And so he decided to break their engagement quietly.
Until the angel dispelled his disbelief in his bride’s fidelity and he married her instead.

But then a few months later, it went deeper still.
The baby would not be born in their cozy little home in Nazareth.
All of Joseph’s preparations for his new bride were for naught.
Instead, the house got closed up tight and the journey to Bethlehem began.
And even there, in Bethlehem, he could not provide for his bride like a husband should.
Circumstances conspired against him.
And they ended up in a stable.
Dreams of every sort shattered.

And even the dream of his son learning to be a carpenter in his father’s shop was postponed.
Because they had to flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of a crazy king.
They spoke no Egyptian.
They had no one there to welcome them.
They ran for their lives with only the provision God had sent – gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Strange gifts from strange men.
But God’s provision all the same.

The Christmas story – the true tale of the birth of the Savior – reads so simply and so quickly in the opening pages of Luke and Matthew.
But if you really think about it – if you place yourself in the shoes of any one of the main cast of characters – it is a roller coaster ride of twists and turns in their lives.

But here is what I love.
When Gabriel tells Mary that she is to be the mother of the son of God she simply says, “I am God’s servant. He can do with me as He wills.”
When Joseph is assured by an angel that Mary is telling the truth, he has the same response. He got up, married her and accepted all that God had for them.
And even as they walked in obedience, the road kept twisting before them.
But still they were faithful.
Even rejoicing that God had chosen them.
There is no record of complaint from either of them.
No balking at the ways their lives had been interrupted.
No railing at God when they suddenly have to flee to Egypt.

Perhaps those emotions and thoughts were there.
I look forward to talking to them about all this when I meet them in heaven.
But the record simply shows a consistent obedience.
Even when the circumstances were far, far from ideal.
They walked with God.
The obeyed Him.
And they let Him deal with the consequences.

Expectations.
Dreams that don’t turn out the way we planned.
And even plans that get blown up in our faces.
How do we deal with them?
Do we simply trust and obey?
Do we wait expectantly for all that God is going to accomplish?
Do we trust that He is completely good and that everything He does is right?

Or do we wrestle for control, seeking to change things?
Do we rail at God, complaining about how things should have been?
Do we let disappointment turn to anger, and then allow anger to simmer into bitterness?

I am glad Mary and Joseph did not do that.
They let God write the script.
They trusted His plan.
Depended fully on Him.
And, because they did, they got to experience amazing things.
Another miraculous birth in the family when old Elizabeth gave birth to cousin John.
And then shepherds telling of angel song.
A star shining just for them.
Confirmation by both a prophet and a prophetess that they held the Messiah in their arms.
God’s provision in both simple ways and grand ones.
Visitors from the East.
And God showing up in a thousand ways that are unrecorded in Scripture but had to have happened for their story to be successful.

Because eventually they did end up back in Nazareth.
And eventually they had those little boys and a girl filling the house with laughter and noise.
And eventually, Mary experienced her oldest boy dying for her sin – and then rising again, victorious over death and hell.

All because they didn’t let the shattering of expectations shatter them.
Instead they trusted God.
And the shattering shaped their story in glorious ways.
Will you let the shattering shape yours as well?
Will you let it drive you to the Everlasting Arms?
Or will you let disappointment, bitterness and anger drive you away?

Because the shattering will come. Jesus guaranteed that in this world we will have trials and troubles.
So the shattering will come.
Be He also promised that He has overcome the world.
So, when the shattering comes, what will your response be?
My prayer for us both is that we will let it drive us to Him – and that, as a result, we will see miraculous things with our own eyes this Christmas season and beyond.

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