I love plans.
I love making plans. I love working out the details of a plan. I love it when the goal of the plans comes to fruition.
Anybody else with me?
We humans love making plans, don’t we?
We plan our career path. We plan our marriages. We plan our weddings. We even plan what age we want to get married and start having a family. We plan a weight loss regiment. We set goals and do whatever we can to pursue our dreams.
Mary, mother of Jesus, had plans. She was going to marry Joseph. That was all to that plan! More than likely the plan formed through an agreement between Joseph and her father, but Mary agreed to it.
At some point after the engagement announcements and engagement party, the angel Gabriel appears before Mary and discloses God’s plan for her: “You are to bear and give birth to God’s Son, the Savior of the World.”
Talk about stunned. I mean, I would be. Stunned. Dumbfounded. Unsure, “You sure you got the right Mary, Gabe, because there’s a lot of Marys around here.”
Talk about having a monkey wrench thrown into your plans too. Think about it. Here Mary is planning a wedding and now an angel tells her she’s going to conceive a son before she’s even had time to do the deed that leads to fruit-bearing. What would her parents say? Forget the parents. What would Joseph say? Would he still marry her? Would she get stoned to death for appearing to have been unfaithful to her husband-to-be? Would she get run out of town?
Her fears about Joseph are relieved when an angel (probably Gabriel again; he likes making announcements and showing up in people’s dreams 😉 ) appears to Joseph and assures him that Mary is not crazy or lying. Joseph decides to go on with the wedding plans.
Just around the time Mary was to give birth, a census went out from Emperor Augustus. Everyone in the Roman Empire must return to the town of their ancestors for the census which meant Joseph must return to Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary.
The Bible doesn’t say it, but it is likely Mary rode on a donkey during their travel. The journey would’ve been 4 days to a week to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem, about an 80 mile journey. 80 miles of walking? Give the woman a donkey!
Mary gives birth to her first-born son while in Bethlehem in what we would probably call a barn because the town did not have a vacant hotel room. None. Zilch. Zero. A barn. Of all places. A place where animals are. Smelly, dirty animals. They lay the new baby in a manger or what we would call a trough. The feeding place for animals. Smelly, dirty animals. Did I mention that already?
A few months later an angel appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary and the child to Egypt because King Herod, the Crazy, wants to kill the child. He fears losing his throne to this new King. So Joseph and Mary slip out of Bethlehem and trek to Egypt with the Son of God. Let’s not even talk about how long of a walk that would be!
The birth of Christ is one of the most amazing stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. What blows my mind the most is the faith of Mary.
Like most teenage girls, she probably built her house in her mind from the moment she agreed to marry Joseph. She probably thought of every stick of furniture and the position for it in the house. She might’ve imagined how many children she and Joseph would raise. Maybe even began making a list of baby names she liked.
She had plans.
Until Gabriel showed up with his baby announcement.
Mary’s response to the news,
“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38
Mary surrendered her plans for God’s miraculous plan. With all the obstacles she faced getting to the day of labor, she probably surrendered more than once. Her trust in the Lord is quite evident in her words and in her obedience.
What does it take to surrender?
The Word tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 To receive from God, to be obedient to what He says, to surrender to His plans requires a deep trust in Him and I think Mary possessed exactly that to be entrusted with such a responsibility as carrying and raising the Son of God. It is probably the reason why God chose her.
Don’t you want to trust that deeply? I do. I want to believe God. Not just believe in God, but believe Him. Believe what He says. Believe what He says and act like it. Act on it.
This Christmas as I ponder the story of the birth of my Savior through a young girl who had her own plans, I think of her response to the angel and her willingness to surrender even though she had no idea how things would all work out. I think of my plans. Would I allow God to interrupt them? I pray for this kind of faith. I pray for the followers of Christ to surrender and trust with full abandon to the plans the Father imagined for His people. I thank Him for the example of Mary’s trust in Him to do the miraculous.
As we surrender to His plans, may we see the miraculous burst forth in our lives.
Merry Christmas, ya’ll!! Praise God for this wonderful gift, Jesus Christ! Emmanuel!!
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and redeemed His people. Luke 1:49 NLT