On Sunday morning we began our advent series called “An inconvenient Christmas” with a talk about an unscheduled arrival. What follows is a short summary of that talk. You can also listen to the talk or download it from our Sunday Talks page (the talks are usually available a bit later in the week).
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The story of Christmas is all about the arrival of Jesus which God had been planning for a really long time but which wasn’t on Mary and Joseph’s schedule! It was more than just a little inconvenient!
You can read today’s story from Matthew chapter 1 verses 18-25 here.
In this short account of the Christmas story, the inconveniences really begin to pile up! Mary is engaged to Joseph but mysteriously falls pregnant before the wedding. That’s inconvenient! Her claim is that the child’s father is God which is an inconvenient argument on which to base your case for innocence. People were always going to struggle to believe her. Neither she nor Joseph had planned to start a family yet so that was inconvenient. The events caused obvious tension in her most significant relationship and Joseph was looking for a way to break off the engagement and divorce her without scandal. This was very inconvenient for him in a culture where many would have encouraged her stoning. Next an angel appeared to him and told him that God was indeed the father of the child, and that he should go ahead and marry her. The angel effectively tells Mary and Joseph to forget all their plans because God has a much more important plan that has been hundreds of years in the making. Admit it. That’s pretty inconvenient. They were both informed that the sudden unscheduled arrival of their son was actually the long planned arrival of God’s Messiah who would save God’s people from their sins. Talk about a heavy assignment!
The story of Mary and Joseph is about two faithful people who God placed in a situation of great personal inconvenience. The unscheduled arrival of Jesus threw their lives into disarray. Yet they chose to respond to this sudden interruption by trusting and obeying God and adjusting their lives to his revealed will.
God is always at work all around us, bringing about his plans and purposes in the world. We are very often unaware of his plans and his work until he chooses to reveal them to us. This creates the potential for a lot of inconvenience because, by the time God is ready to reveal his plans and purposes for us, we have often already made our own plans. God has no problem interrupting our schedules with an invitation for us to get involved in his work but we often have a problem with him doing this. Yet, it is only when we are willing to make major adjustments to our lives and schedules in order to obey God that we are truly able to experience the wonder of his presence and plans. We have a choice of how we respond when God places us in situations where his plans threaten our own. Faithful people are never guaranteed a convenient life by God. He sometimes allows our lives and plans to dissolve into disarray or leads us in directions we’d prefer not to go. The Christian life, like everyone else’s life, is full of inconvenience. If we want peace in this world, we have to learn to trust and obey God and adjust our lives and schedules to his plans. Fighting against the will of God is never in our best interests or the best interests of the people around us.
The Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.”
Questions to reflect on (on your own or in your small group):
- Do you have a personal story of an unscheduled arrival foiling you plans?
- The many stories in the Bible tell us that God is at work all around us and invites us to get involved in his work. Are you excited about that prospect or does it feel inconvenient to you?
- How do you feel about the fact that God’s plans often require us to adjust or abandon our own plans in order to do God’s will and experience his wonder?
- Is there a situation in your life right now where you need God’s help in order to accept and adjust to unplanned events?
- When life seems the most out of control, how might it help you to reflect on this story and on how, even in the most inconvenient of circumstances, God is still at work in our lives to bring about good things for us and for others in our world?
- How might you make a conscious effort to view life’s many inconveniences as opportunities to join God and respond in ways that bring about peace rather than more stress?