Not how we’d planned Christmas

This wasn’t how he though he’d be spending this day of all days. Plans interrupted by government decrees. Far from family and friends. Taking on roles within the family that he’d never even dreamt he’d be required to fulfil. In fact, the last year hadn’t exactly been what he’d planned. If you’d have asked him a year ago, he’d have told you of his wedding plans, hopes for the future with his bride, work aspirations, plans for the new home… yet all that changed about nine months ago.

Just as Christmas plans for many of us aren’t what we’d been hoping for or expecting, just as the last year hasn’t gone according to the plans we’d made, so that first Christmas wasn’t exactly what Joseph had planned or hoped for. If Joseph could have had a choice in when the government would make travel laws, requiring all men to return to their ancestral home for a census (Luke 2:1-3), I doubt it would have been over that first Christmas time. I doubt Joseph expected to be so far away from his family, friends and hometown when Mary was due to give birth. I very much doubt Joseph ever imagined having to step into the role of midwife.

For Joseph, that first Christmas was messy, unplanned and unconventional. For many, this Christmas will not be what had been hoped for and a far cry from what it would usually look like. Yet truths that were present that first Christmas remain true today.

  • God knows and is in control. The Bible tells us that “when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law” (Galatians 4:4, NLT). The nativity might not have been at the time or place that Joseph had planned, yet it didn’t surprise God. In fact, it happened in just the time and place (Micah 5:2) that God had planned. When the world around us is in upheaval and we feel a lack of control over our circumstances, we can remember that One far more powerful knows, cares and is in control.
  • Immanuel, God with us. It wasn’t Christmas bubbles that affected them yet, that first Christmas, Mary and Joseph were far from home and struggled to find a welcome home in Bethlehem. In their isolation and displacement, they, like us, can remember that God was with them. The message of Christmas is of God taking human form and coming as a Baby to live on earth. God was physically with them that first Christmas – God is still with us today. When we’re struggling with loneliness or missing those who should have been with us at this time of year, we can remember that God is here with us – Immanuel.
  • God offers us salvation. The threat of coronavirus is at the forefront of the news, our thoughts and plans this Christmas. Yet the Bible tells us of a far greater threat to all mankind. The Bible tells of how sin – the wrong things we do or think and the failure to live up to God’s standard – separates us from God and results in death (Romans 5:12). The Christmas story fits into the far bigger story of the Bible, the story of God’s plan to save mankind from their sin and the effects of it. That first Christmas, the angels told the shepherds that there was a message of “good news that will bring great joy to all people” – “the Saviour… has been born” (Luke 2:10-11). This Christmas, amidst the fear and concern of the coronavirus, let us remember the message God sent by His angels of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) and the Son He sent to be born in a manger in Bethlehem so that He might one day die on a cross at Calvary in our place, so that God can offer of salvation and everlasting peace to all who will accept it. Our real hope this Christmas comes, not in a vaccine but in the One who came to die for us and in the personal relationship we can have with Him by accepting His gift of salvation.