Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nothing is Inconsequential

[what's brewing: did I really order this???]

There are certain elements of the Christian faith that I have wrestled with for most of my adult life – such as the question of how (and in my most desperate moments, if) prayer works, the role of God’s omnipotence in allowing suffering in the world, and the historically troubling issue of free will vs. God’s divine will. At times these topics are distressing to the point of tears, while at other times I feel at peace with taking them by faith and leaving my lack of understanding in the grace of God’s hands.

This week as I read over the Christmas story and followed several passages along through my Advent reading guide, I was struck by the theme of God’s specific control over the events of the world. I’ve known these passages for years. They’ve even been included in Christmas services and readings I’ve seen before, but for some reason they impacted me today like they never have before. His orchestration of minute yet magnificent details is clearly depicted in the story that leads to Jesus’ birth: a descendent of Abraham, in the line of David, born to a virgin in Bethlehem, the child who would bring “the redemption of the world” (Luke 2:38).

I can scarcely imagine how out of control life must have felt for Mary. She did not choose the absurdity of a virgin birth for herself – God orchestrated it, in accordance with the prophets’ message of years ago. Had the census not been imposed by Caesar, there would have been no reason for the journey to the town of David, Bethlehem, to occur. I can’t imagine Mary was very pleased about traveling such a distance by donkey while 9 months pregnant, but she had to go, just as it had been foretold. Believing that he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ, Simeon was “moved by the Spirit” to go the temple courts, and there he found the child Jesus. He didn’t know where he would see the child, but the Spirit moved him to go to the temple, and he went – another fulfillment of what had been foretold.

As clear as it may seem to us as we read this familiar story, I doubt these individuals would have seen their daily actions as part of the fulfillment of God’s perfect plan (certainly not Caesar!). They were moving along in daily life, and God was at work within the mundane details – a woman pledged to be married, a ruler calling for a census, an innkeeper offering a stable, an old man being prompted to go the temple. Those who worshipped God were open to this working in their lives: Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna. All praised God immediately for what he had done. In the midst of uncertainty, they responded with worship.

If there is any doubt within you about where you are today, where God is and what he is doing, the reason for a certain area of suffering, the loneliness or hopeless you may be feeling this week of Christmas, may you be encouraged by the truth depicted in the story of Christ’s birth. There is nothing inconsequential about the circumstances we are facing. By logical necessity God must either be intricately involved in every circumstance of the world, or not at all. He has shown himself to be sovereign over circumstances in amazing stories like this one, and therefore we can trust that he is sovereign over circumstances in broken, challenging stories like our own.
Wherever you may be, whatever you may be facing, you are not alone and you are not forgotten. God has known this day for all of eternity, and he will use it to demonstrate his faithfulness to humankind throughout history and bring glory to his name.

Lord, help us to say, as Mary did:

I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.


E. T. Tenna said...

Thank you, Coffeegirl. These are good thoughts to ponder.

I have often felt alone at Christmas while in my host country, despite a good sized team of colleagues and many special events. This year I really have tons of quiet joy. I just thank Him for that. It hasn't always been that way, but this year it is. I think it's because of...just His decision to bless me this way, this moment.

Thanks for touching us with your blog.

Libby said...

Thanks for these encouraging words! I sure need them this year. This has been one of the hardest years of my life let alone on the field. I have been feeling pretty lonely and down this holiday season. And we are in the middle of getting our newly built house ready to move in very soon. (which is exciting, but very tiring at times)
But I am very thankful for how the Lord has used different people in real life and otherwise to show me the Truth and how to be thankful.
So I am thankful today for God's Love which is big enough to handle anything I am dealing with and He's big enough to change me too.
Thank you for also for being used of God to encourage me and I am sure many others this week! Have a great Christmas!

Cindy said...

Thank yo Coffeegirl for a very timely reminder.

Merry Christmas!

Becky Aguirre said...

This is a very touching post, very encouraging to me today! I think that if we could see things from God's perspective, we'd be quite surprised by what He considers to be important...might be a LOT different than what we were thinking!

Merry Christmas!

Alan & Beth McManus said...

Thank you. I needed that reminder.

nora said...

Thanks Coffeegirl. You hit it right on the head. Faithful in the little things, that's our call, huh?

Merry Christmas!

Grammy said...

also all the little boys that were killed by Herod after the Kings asked about the baby....some things are beyound our modern minds. Have a joyful Christmas. Remembering that Christ Lives!

Coffeegirl said...

Hey all you Coffeegirls out there! Just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you today, finding comfort in knowing that each of you are out there also, experiencing the joy, heartache, fulfillment and (if you're like me) the tears, that go along with spending Christmas away from "home", whether for the first time or with years of experience. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Wishing you each a very Merry Christmas and a true sense of His peace today.

Ruvin said...

Thank you for your thoughts in this post. Reading it made me cry. This hasn't even been a particularly bad time right now, but so many things in life do feel out of control. It is an important reminder that we are each where we are at this certain time for a much bigger reason than we can see. Thank you. I think God wanted to bring this reminder to a lot of us.

Anonymous said...

Facing this Christmas for the first time was a challenge. I made it thru with flying colors until Saturday. Then it hit...I didn't even see it coming. The tears flowed and I again felt the overwhelming realization I had missed the holidays with my parents and my brother. It was never going to be the same even if I went home. Whatever "home" means now.
I realized though, that it is because of this season that we are called away to this duty of service. Without Christmas there would be no good news to share. That put things in perspective. Thank you...for sharing truths with us. The orchestration of God's plan is in the minute details and I seem to forget that.

Missionary to Italy

Coffeegirl said...

Becky, my heart goes out to you - I had the same experience over Thanksgiving. Made it through the actual day and then out out of nowhere I was an emotional mess. The finality of not being home (as you said, wherever that is) really weighed on my heart too. I breathed a sigh of relief as we crawled into bed on Christmas night and said, "Thank goodness it's over - I made it through my first Christmas away from family." I am developing a new mantra - "God's plan is in the minute details." It's all too easy to forget, but as you've summarized it so well, it's the very reason we are far from home, missing Christmas with our families. Thanks for checking in - I'm saying a prayer for you today.


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