Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 19. Christmas equals Change
Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
If we look at the whole Christmas story as recounted by Matthew and Luke, there is one thing above all else that stands out. It is about a series of events that must have stretched out a little over twelve months. In the previous meditation we left the young family escaping to Egypt. After a couple of years they will get the ‘all-clear’ and can return to Nazareth where they will settle and the boy Jesus will grow up.
But a little over twelve months back, none of this had happened and there was no warning of what was about to happen. Zechariah had not seen his angel, Mary had not seen her angel, Joseph had not had his dream, Mary had not conceived, the emperor had not sent them to Bethlehem, the baby had not been born, the shepherds had not come, Simeon and Anna had not greeted them, and the wise men had not come. No, twelve months or so back, none of that had happened.
So here is the thing that stands out – the Christmas story is all about change, change that took place in the lives of many people. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph are the key players and they experience the biggest changes, but then there were the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and the wise men, and none of them would ever be the same either.
Look back over your past twelve months and your life will almost certainly be summed up in the same way – change. Circumstances, things happened, maybe babies being born, maybe people dying, maybe changes in schools or workplaces. Maybe marriages and, tragically, maybe divorces. We are not the same people today that we were twelve months ago.
But if that is the big thing that stands out, there is something else that is equally important but not so obvious, and it is the hand of God working out His plans and purposes as He works to bring about His will on earth. What was that will in the Christmas story? It was to bring Jesus into the lives of all these people. What is His will today? It is to bring Jesus into the midst of all of our lives. For those of us who already know Him, it is to know Him more. For those around us who don’t know Him, His desire is that they do come to know Him.
Within those broad sweeps of His will there may be a myriad of smaller details that are involved in bringing those big sweeps about. He may not bring about the bad things that go on around us – for we live in a fallen world where things go wrong because of the presence of Sin and Satan – but He will work in the midst of them to bring about His primary goals. He may not have prompted the emperor to issue the edict that affected Mary and Joseph, but at the very least He knew it would happen and used it for His bigger purposes. He certainly didn’t prompt Herod to come after all the baby boys, but He certainly knew about it, and was there guarding, protecting and guiding this little family.
So here is the big picture view of Christmas. It is not about presents and parties, about food and drink, it is all about the changes that go on in lives prompted by God as he works out His will on the earth. It says to us that this is how life is, full of constant change, but behind it there is the Lord subtly working out His plans and purposes for the earth, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That is God’s intent for the earth, for the world and its people who have fallen and turned their back on Him. It is to say, “I am still here, I still love you and I still want to draw you to myself for I have so many good things on my heart for you if you will only receive them.” May we each hear that voice.