The 5th Day of Advent
December 1, 2022
Elizabeth Barrett Browning has a line which I love; “God’s best gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” Her line captures the thought of today’s meditation. Follow my thinking.
God’s gift to Mary changed everything about her life – especially her dreams. Rather than marrying the man of her dreams and raising a family of her dreams, God changed everything with a virgin birth and asks her to be the mother of Hi Son (He didn’t really ask, did He? He just showed up and she said “Yes”). How’s that for a change of plans. But would you call bringing the Son of God into the world a disappointment, disruptive to your life? If given a choice, how radically different would you and I be to embrace God’s plan for us if His plan didn’t suit our vision of how we wish life would be? But wasn’t God’s plan for Mary better than anything she ever could have dreamt?
God’s gift to Mary changed everything for Joseph. If you were Joseph, how do you explain Mary’s pregnancy to your family and your community? Would you call enduring all the criticism somewhat disruptive or major league disruptive? It certainly was not what a young husband would dream of for the months before his wedding and his honeymoon. But wasn’t God’s plan for Joseph to be the father of the Son of God better than he ever could have dreamt?
Being 9 months pregnant and traveling 100 miles on a donkey to Bethlehem, giving birth to your first child 100 miles away from your family, delivering Him in a cave with the animals, and laying your newborn son in a feeding trough, is that the way you dreamt of bringing your first born son into the world? But wasn’t her memory of the shepherds more amazing than anything she could have ever dreamt?
How we romanticize that first Christmas. How we romanticize God’s work in our lives.
Finally, imagine being chased out of town as a tyrant tried to kill your son, and you have to take your new mother and young son by night to a foreign country in order to fulfill the Word of God (Matthew 2.15)? I think to myself; how willing am I to fulfill the Word of God in my life if it means disrupting my lifestyle?
Remember Barrett’s line; “God’s best gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” God’s best gift of His Son to Mary, Joseph, and to the world is simply an unimaginably perfect gift – far more beautiful that we would ever imagine in our wildest dreams. God is with us – personally – in the flesh. Immanuel – God with us.
Perhaps we ought to be eager to have our lives disrupted by God. Perhaps that is why Jesus said;
“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself’” (Luke 9.23-25).
Caution! Following and celebrating the Christ of Christmas may be disruptive to your life! But it will be better than you ever would have dreamt!
I must add a bit of my personal testimony here. When I came from Pennsylvania through Haiti to Dallas in 1973 to attend Dallas Theological Seminary, it never would have occurred to me that I would spend the next 50 years here. But here I am – utterly amazed at and full of worship for all God has done in my life.
This is no less true for anything that God is at work at in your life this Advent season. I believe that when the record of the unseen world of 2022 is revealed, what God has done and is doing during this year will be the record of all that He can do through His plan and His purpose for our lives. One day we’ll say with the saints of all the ages, “Who would have ever believed it?”
Permit me one more personal illustration. In July of last year (“21) I had surgery to fuse several bones in my foot. It was a very painful recovery. In that same year Vicki had a similar foot surgery which had to be repeated this past February – two surgeries for her! It was so painful for her this past year. But as we have submitted our lives to God and His purposes, we have no idea what the impact of trusting Him during the struggles of these two years will mean in the yet unfolding years of our life together. We only know that holding on to Him is the most important ambition in our life. I do not know how He weaves all of life together – we only know He does.
That’s Christmas! Have a blessed Advent season!
Happy 5th day of Advent!