December 22, 2013: When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Posted on : Dec 19th, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

I am a highly organized person.  As I’ve told every one of our Seminary Interns, “11 am Sunday comes around every 7 days whether you’re prepared or not!”  I also don’t care for “trauma drama.”  Some people love it when life is out of control and chaotic.  I don’t.  So, I’ve learned that the most rewarding way for me to enjoy my life is to be organized and to plan ahead.  But, what happens when things don’t go as planned?  As they say in 12-step programs, “Stuff happens.”

Our story of faith is filled with people who discovered that things don’t always go as planned.  King David, Israel’s greatest and most loved King, accomplished some of the most remarkable things in Israel’s history.  He was so loved and so successful that for the rest of Israel’s history they wait for his successor –someone to lead them as King David did.

In our Christian tradition, Jesus is that “heir” of King David’s family lineage.  That’s why the Christmas scriptures and so many Christmas carols include that reference to “the lineage” or “family line” of David.

But the one thing David wanted most didn’t work out as planned.  In 1st Chronicles 28: 1-10 David says, “I had planned to build a house of rest for the Ark of the Covenant…and I made preparation for building.”  The “Ark of the Covenant” was a gold gilded, ornate, “chest” that housed the Torah – the sacred text of the Jewish Scriptures.  The Ark was moveable so the scriptures could be carried with the people of God wherever they went.  The tradition began when Moses brought down the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai.  At that time the people of God were nomadic (desert) wanders.  They had no place to call home.  So it was convenient to have a “movable” sacred chest in which to carry “the Word of God.”

The intent was that one day, when the people of God finally reached “the promised land,” they would build a Temple and the Ark would be placed in the most holy place of the temple (thus, the phrase, “holy of holies.”)

King David had great plans to build the most beautiful Temple ever imagined in honor and thanksgiving to the God he so loved and served.  This was the one thing in life he wanted most.  But God had other plans.  David had to leave the building of the Temple for his son, Solomon!

As we read the scriptures leading up to the birth of Jesus, we find Mary and Joseph also experienced a whole bunch of things that didn’t go as planned.  Mary and Joseph were formally engaged.  “The pregnancy thing” was not part of the plan.  Mary and Joseph had not planned on Cesar Augustus calling for a census which required everyone to “register” in the town of their Birth.  So Joseph packs up Mary, who is very pregnant, and heads off from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because Joseph was of the house and lineage (family line) of David!  I’m sure it was not planned for Mary to give birth while on that trip, let alone in a barn.  And as you read in this week’s scriptures (see below) things didn’t go as planned even after the birth of Jesus.  According to Matthew’s telling of the story, Joseph and Mary were warned in a dream to “flee to Egypt because Herod is searching for the child to destroy [kill] him.”  And immediately Joseph and Mary get up and take refuge in Egypt.  The story continues that Herod had was so outraged that he had been outsmarted that he gave orders to kill all male children that were two years old and younger living in and around Bethlehem.  Talk about things not going as planned!

What we learn from these stories of faith is that oftentimes, when things don’t go as planned, it is because God has a better plan for us.  I know for some that sounds trite.  But I also know from my own experience, it is true.  On this last Sunday of Advent, the last week in which we spiritually prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ into our lives and world, we’re going to focus on Discovering God’s Presence When Things Don’t Go as Planned.”

Advent Blessings,


~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Matthew 1: 18-25

Matthew describes the birth of Jesus

This is how the birth of Jesus came about.

When Jesus’ mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright person unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her quietly.

This was Joseph’s intention when suddenly the angel of God appeared in a dream and said, “Joseph, heir to the House of David, don’t be afraid to wed Mary; it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son, and you are to name him Jesus – “God saves” – because he will save people from their sins.”

All this happened to fulfill what God had said through the prophet:

“The virgin will be with child

And give birth,

And the child will be named

Emmanuel” – a name that means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of God had directed him, and they named him Jesus.

Matthew 2: 1-16

Matthew describes the visit of the magi to the child.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”  And hearing this, Herod the king was troubled, and all Jerusalem as well; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told Herod, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will govern my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the magi secretly, ascertained from them what time the star appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  When they heard the king they went their way; and the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered the child gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

After the Magi had left, the angel of God suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph with the command, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you otherwise.  Herod is searching for the child to destroy him.”  Joseph got up, awakened Jesus and Mary, and they left that night for Egypt.  They stayed there until the death of Herod, to fulfill what God had said through the prophet:  “Out of Egypt I have called my own.”

Herod became furious when he realized that the astrologers had outwitted him.  He gave orders to kill all male children that were two years old and younger living in and around Bethlehem.

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