Life has a way of handing us unexpected and unwanted packages.
A pink slip from your employer.
A bad report from the doctor.
An eviction notice from the bank.
A harsh email from a strained relationship.
Too often, the package delivered with your name on it isn’t a present you want.
The first Christmas was wrapped in an unusual set of circumstances: Joseph and Mary having to make a difficult journey in the last trimester of her pregnancy…and then to have to give birth in a stable.
But the way Jesus chose to come reveals that the “surprises” in our lives that look so foreboding to us truly are unusual packages of God’s grace.
So what do we learn from the first Christmas about what to do when life hands us unwanted packages?
Trust God’s Providence
Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was no accident. It was the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning where Jesus would be born.
Seven hundred years before Mary and Joseph began the difficultly-timed journey to Bethlehem, God had instructed the prophet Micah to record, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
Life is full of unavoidable circumstances. We can expend our energy in futile efforts to change them. We can spend our time stewing in bitter resentment over them. Or we can trust God’s providence in the midst of them.
Although we may not see God’s hand of providence for years to come, we can trust that anything out of our control is filtered by the hand of our loving Father. He will not allow into our lives anything through which He cannot fulfill his promise in Romans 8:28.
Showcase God’s Grace
The presentation of Christ to this world was not the way we would have planned it. And I think we can safely say it is not the way Mary would have planned it either. (What mother wants to lay her newborn in a used feeding trough?)
But, with the enabling grace of God, Mary’s response to the unusual package of the manger magnified God’s grace, rather than opening it up for question.
Mary could have complained. She could have become angry toward God. “God, first You make me travel ninety miles when I’m great with child, and now this?! Couldn’t I at least have a comfortable room and clean surroundings in which to give birth? Why would You do this to me?”
Because Mary and Joseph received the incredible gift of Jesus—with no expectations of how He should be delivered or presented to the world—they deflected the attention from themselves to the manger.
And the manger became a showcase of grace where shepherds knelt in worship of God.
Wholly Surrender to God’s Will
Why did God choose Mary? The complete answer to that question is known only by God. But it is significant that Mary was willing—truly submitted—to receive this unusual, and in some ways heavy, gift.
Sure, there was great cost involved for Mary. But she yielded to the Lord, bore the cost, and cherished the gift.
God isn’t looking for the strong or searching for the famous. He gives His most precious gifts to those who will simply yield their wills to Him.
Our problem is that we see what looks to us like distasteful wrapping, and in our selfishness, we plead with God to take back His gifts.
Not so with Mary. She simply said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
What To Do with Your Gift
What about you? Are you staggering under the load of an unusual package—one that you never would have chosen, but have no way to release?
Are you struggling to understand the unavoidable circumstances that have come into your life?
Are you disappointed in the harsh realities of failed expectations?
Tiptoe to the Bethlehem stable. Gaze on a weary young mother, required to travel far in her last month of pregnancy—only to find a barn in which to give birth. See a crude manger. But don’t look solely at these wrappings. Peer beyond, into the manger, and see the face of God!
Yes, Christmas is a gift. And sometimes God sends His greatest gifts in the most unusual packages.
Trust His providence.
Showcase His grace.
And wholly surrender to His will.
In time, you will learn that God gives the best surprises.
(This post is adapted from chapter 3 of Christmas Is a Gift, available also on kindle.)
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