December 18, 2011: “This was not in my plan!”

Posted on : Dec 15th, 2011 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“This was not in my plan!”

Water breaking.

No Room in the Inn.

Giving birth in a barn.


For Reflection:

How many times in life do we think we’ve got it together and then, kaboom! – something happens that was not part of “the plan?”

Last Sunday evening one of our members went out to a party, parked his car, shared in the merriment, came out to get in his car and the car was not there.  It was stolen.  That was not in his Christmas plan!

Two days ago I received an email from a member of our ministry team.  A friend of our congregation who was going to participate in our Christmas Eve service had just received the news that she has cancer and has to have surgery immediately.  That was certainly not in her plan.  That wasn’t even in the scope of things possible!

Last Friday a distraught 26 year old man stood in the intersection of Vine and Sunset Blvd and began shooting at passing cars and people.  It appears he wanted the police to shoot him.  One of his random shots went through a car window and into the face of a man who was simply driving by.  After four days in Intensive Care, the man died.  He was simply going about his daily business.   Being shot was certainly not in his or his family’s plan.  It was a completely unexpected tragedy.

Mary and Joseph both had one of those “not in my plan” faith experiences in the story that leads up to the birth of the Christ Child.

An angel of God appears to Mary and reveals to her that she is going to give birth to the Christ-child.  That was not in her plan!  So she runs off to her Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Zachariah’s house.  She needs some safe space to sort out this mess.  Though not in her plan, she ends up thanking and praising God effusively!

Joseph also finds himself in an unexpected mess.  Caesar Augustus decided it was time for a census so he required everyone to return to the city of “his” birth to be “counted” so everyone could be properly taxed.  Since a woman was considered the property of her husband, she went along with her husband.  Mary was very pregnant.   This was not a good time for this to be happening.  But, Joseph had no choice but to try and make it to Bethlehem.  They did make it, but barely.  When they got there, there were no rooms at any of the Inns.  Well, that’s probably not quite true.  Inn Keepers always “held back” one or two of the nicest rooms just in case some wealthy traveler should happen to come by.  For the right price, a room could be bought.  But Joseph and Mary were poor.  Very poor.  So they ended up in a barn with the stinky animals.  And then and there, Mary’s water breaks, she goes into labor, and the baby Jesus is born – in a cold, smelly barn.  This was not in Mary’s plan or Joseph’s plan.

And yet, in spite of all these “trials,” setbacks and unexpected obstacles, God’s plan came into being.

As I’ve grown older, I have become more open to letting go of my agenda and just living in God’s time.  My plan isn’t always right – for me or the world.  God’s is.

There are times when I think, “Oh I didn’t do this or get that done!”  Or, “Why do people keep messing up my plans!”  And then a day or two later comes the answer.  It wasn’t supposed to be.  In more recent years I’ve come to learn that if something isn’t coming together the way I think it should, there’s probably a good reason for that.  The reason is, “it isn’t supposed to be that way!”

Mary and Joseph’s final Advent lesson in our series on God’s Great ADVENTure is that God’s plan and our plan are not always the same.  The plan we can always trust is God’s.  It will get us there, even though it may not be the way we thought we should go!

Advent Blessings,


~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 1: 26-31 & 39-56

The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the child of God – and Mary rejoices in the goodness of God and for what God is doing in her life.”

Six months later, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman named Mary; she was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the household of David. Upon arriving, the angel said to Mary, “Rejoice, highly favored one!  God is with you!  Blessed are you among women!”

Mary was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what the angel’s greeting meant.  The angel went on to say to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.  You’ll conceive and bear a child and give him the name Jesus.  His dignity will be great, and he will be called the only-begotten of God.

Within a few days Mary set out and hurried to the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered her uncle Zechariah’s house and greeted her aunt, Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   In a loud voice she exclaimed to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of the Messiah should come to me?  The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who believed that what Our God said to her would be accomplished!”

Mary said,

My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
And my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
For you have looked with favor
Upon your lowly servant,
And from this day forward
All generations will call me blessed.
For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
And holy is your Name.
Your mercy reaches from age to age
For those who fear you.
You have shown strength with your arm,
You have scattered the rich in their conceit,
You have deposed the mighty from their thrones
And raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things,
While you have sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
Mindful of your mercy –
The promise you made to our ancestors –
To Sarah and Abraham and their descendants forever.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

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