This is the conclusion of a set of six readings I prepared for a Christmas Eve service in 2013. I will be posting one each week until Christmas. Feel free to use them for family devotions, personal enjoyment, or for any future Christmas events of your own.
God keeps His promises even when it looks like He has made a mistake. If Mary and Joseph had kept a list of “Times it looked like God made a mistake,” it would have been a significant list. If they had kept a list of “Funny and awesome things that God did to show us He never made a mistake after all,” that list would have been even longer. Eventually, they probably learned to get excited every time it looked like God had made a mistake, and to say, “Oh, I wonder what He’s going to do this time!” Because, after all, if God is the one planning and executing Christmas, and not us, then every problem that arises is His problem, not ours. And God has no problem solving His problems!
So maybe one day Mary said, “Joseph, it looks like God made a mistake. We live in Nazareth. Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be born in Bethlehem? Should we be worried about this? Should we be planning a trip? Are we still in God’s will? Did He forget one of His promises?”
And maybe the next day Joseph came home laughing too hard to speak for a minute and said, “Guess what? God made the Roman emperor of the whole world issue a decree that means you and I will be forced to go to Bethlehem right around the time of your due date. Is God in charge of this story or what?”
And God had never told Mary and Joseph that He was planning to use a stable and a manger. So maybe when Joseph saw his wife start going into labor in a stable, he asked, “God, what did I do wrong? Surely this isn’t what you planned. How did I miss it? What should I have done?” And maybe when Mary wrapped Jesus up in swaddling bands she hesitated before she could bear to put Him down in the manger and said, “God, I’m sorry if I missed something. I’m sorry if He gets dirty. I can’t believe You want Him to spend His first night in a manger, but I don’t know what else to do. This doesn’t look anything like I thought You’d want it to be.”
But God keeps His promises even when they don’t look anything like we thought they would. And so a minute later, a bunch of shepherds come bursting into the barn yelling, “I found it! I found it! Over here! This one! There’s a baby in the manger. Sorry lady, this angel said we’d find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. That was supposed to be the sign for us that He is our Messiah. We’ve been checking every manger in town!”
And then Mary would have started to laugh and cry and whisper, “God, you are amazing. You never told me to put Him in a manger, but You knew I would have to, and it turns out it was a sign? And an angel told these men it was a sign from You? And that’s how they found Him? I guess we’re exactly where You wanted us to be after all!”
God keeps His promises even after we have failed.
God keeps His promises even when they take a long time.
God keeps His promises even when they are attacked by Satan.
God keeps His promises even when we are afraid.
God keeps His promises even when we suffer pain and disappointment.
God keeps His promises even when it looks like He’s made a mistake.
God keeps His promises even when they don’t look like we expected.
God keeps His promises even after our hearts shut down.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
Christmas comes because God wants it more than you do.