Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Unexpected

After Jesus was born and the visiting guests, angels and prophets had spoken their blessings, the Bible tells us that "Mary took all these things and pondered them in her heart." Allow me translate that for you: "Mary took all these things, hefted them onto her own shoulders, cried her eyes out for a few days, then finally gave it over to God. Only after that did she begin to understand His amazing plan." I have no doubt in my mind that Mary had some sort of expectation about how the birth of her son was supposed to look. Even though she was somewhat outcast because of her pre-marital pregnancy, this girl had ideas. She had probably seen dozens of births in her own family and knew exactly what she wanted. Who the midwife was, what her mother and sisters would do, how the room would look at the moment she pushed the baby out, the smell of incense in the air, the quiet light of oil lamps.

Surprise. The baby is born far away from home in a dark, dank cave with a bunch of animals standing around watching, the least of which is her soon-to-be-husband who has never even seen her naked, let alone in the "beautiful" moment of birthing a baby (which men didn't usually participate in, anyway). All new moms understand the drive to cleanliness in the weeks before the baby comes. All of Mary's nesting was useless. I'm guessing the cleanliness of the stable wasn't up to the usual Birthing Unit standard. The Bible doesn't tell us if she had any help from local women, but you can bet she felt pretty alone without her own support network there.

So, there she sits. Staring at this swaddled thing in her arms. Every mom has been there, we all know the feeling: "Now what?" Next thing you know a pile of shepherds appear (think "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever). I'm pretty sure the last thing Mary wanted to see just then was a bunch of unknown, smelly guys with sheep in tow. It's not quite the glowing picture we're used to imagining, is it? Eight days later they have the baby circumcised and receive some strange words from the local prophet contingent. Then, there's a lull for 2 years when Mary and Joseph begin to wonder what they're supposed to do. No angels. No visions. No dreams. Did we miss a road sign? Suddenly, three wise men show up with a caravan and the equivelent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts. God finally sends a dream: "This gift is so you can flee to Egypt." Hmm...let's travel 2,000 miles by donkey with a 2 year old. Sounds great. "I don't care if he's the son of God, woman- he has to keep up with the donkey if he's not going to ride..." "Well, if you hadn't taken that detour back in Sinai, we'd probably be there by now..."

Ok- so back to the story at hand. Mary took all of these things and pondered them in her heart. She cried. She yelled and screamed. She kicked and punched and wailed. She was heartbroken that she couldn't give her amazing child the birthing experience he deserved. Or what she thought he deserved. But after she had a chance to sit back and see it in hindsight, she began to understand. It had to be this way to fulfill the prophesies. God's plan was perfect. Not only were prophesies fulfilled about where, how, and when the birth would occur (this is obviously a huge topic for another time-see below), but the story was written in a way that would make it irresistible to anyone who was drawn to Jesus:

  • Children love the animals in the story as well as the baby and the angelic choir
  • Young people love the idea of the adventure- traveling to Egypt! Oh the joy of gifts from far-away lands and wicked kings wreaking havoc.
  • Single moms love it that Mary was one of them.
  • Women appreciate that the son of God came from a woman (i.e. not born out of some god's head)
  • Men love it because even the lowliest shepherd has a place of honor in the story and they appreciate Joseph's integrity, humility, and obvious trust and devotion to his young bride (women like that, too).
It is so obvious to me that God wrote the story of His grace for each of us. And He wrote it in such an unexpected way that he fooled the enemy of our souls. Satan missed the whole thing unfolding right in front of his face.

So. Who am I to mourn the loss of an experience? Who am I to concern myself with small details that don't go the way I expect? God has a plan that is bigger than my shortsighted vision. I'm so glad the author stopped to tell us that Mary pondered these things. It reminds me to stop and look back once in awhile. What is God doing in this moment? What did I miss because I was caught up in my own web of intention? How can I tune into God's frequency? He gave His own son so we could draw near His throne of grace, perfectly clean and pure. He loves us. Passionately.

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

Immanuel means "God with us." God- tabernacled among us, living in our midst, living, breathing, flesh, born of woman. Right here. Right now. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything we've hoped, dreamed, and practiced for.

Some of the Prophetic Fulfillments of Jesus of Nazareth:
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:26-35)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2 / Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)
  • He would be heralded by a messenger of the Lord (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1 / Matthew 3:1-3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 7:27)
  • He would perform miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35, and throughout the gospels)
  • He would preach good news (Isaiah 61:1-2 / Luke 4:14-21)
  • He would first present himself as king 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
  • He would enter Jerusalem as king riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 / Matthew 21:4-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38)
  • He would die a humiliating and painful death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53 / Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
  • His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; / Crucifixion accounts of Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19)
  • His executioners would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24)
  • None of his bones would be broken in his execution (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36)
  • His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34-37)
  • He would die with the wicked and be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60)

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