Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meditation #3: When the Plan Looks Different Than Expected

At Christmas time I often find myself puzzling over Mary. I've tasted what it is like for God's plan to turn out so different than I expected, and I wonder about her thoughts as Jesus' life unfolded before her. Surely she understood the gravity of the proclamation by the angel that she would have the Son of God. Surely she felt the weight as it dawned upon her that she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. And yet, did she have doubts? Did she wonder at God's choice of her, a simple peasant girl, to give birth to one who had been proclaimed to be a great warrior-king? Even as a child he must have puzzled her. Not the conquering ruler so many had envisioned, but tender, compassionate, kind . . . and at the same time, bearing an air of authority.

Did the birth of the Messiah confuse her as much as it does us? I mean, when we really think about it. It's easy to buy the traditional story of a baby in a manger, but when we really begin to grasp that it was God in the manger, when we really start to understand the majesty and holiness of this one who had come . . . a stable seems an odd choice.

Of course, if we really study God's whole story, we see that He is a God who delights in turning things upside down. Over and over He proves to us humans that we can't apply a simple formula to life and get what we want or expect. He just doesn't work like that. He loves to make the youngest the heir, the lowly a ruler, a woman a deliverer. He loves to show His might through the weak and the broken and the hopeless.

Perhaps that is because eventually that is where we all end up: facing our own helplessness. The husband leaves. The illness ravages our body. Parents and siblings die. All of our education and training can't find us a job. When sin decimates our lives, God's stories of using humble maidens to bring a king into the world remind us that this same king conquered death and sin for us. He offers hope and life in the midst of a hard world. Only in a relationship to Him do we find satisfaction and joy.

I wonder how much of God's story Mary knew. Did she know much beyond the traditional tales of folklore that were told. Somewhere had she glimpsed the God who loved her? She was a woman who treasured up things and pondered them, so I wonder if she had pondered the truth of God's story enough to just trust that He knew what He was doing even though the plan never seemed to make sense to her.

Christmas is a time of giving to others and asking for your deepest desires. I think this Christmas I'm going to give God my attention and my worship. He deserves so much more, and nothing less. I'm going to give Him control of my life (again . . . although He never lost it). And I'm going to ask Him to draw me back into His story in the year to come. This year I would like many more glimpses of the life-giving, hope-bringing God-incarnate.

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