Change of Plans for Christmas
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 2:1–2:20
The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve
December 24, 2014
“Change of Plans for Christmas”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Savior, the Word-made-flesh. Amen. “Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger. Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child” (Bidding Prayer for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols).
Tickets were bought, reservations were made, an itinerary was planned, and all that was left to do was say “Adios, America,” and “Hola, Spain and Portugal.” There was just that routine check-up with her doctor in Shreveport, Louisiana that was left to fit in before Mona Morgan and her husband, Eddie, jetted off to Europe for the vacation of a lifetime. “I thought we had planned for everything, but wouldn’t you know it… Everyone always says it’s the last thing you expect to hear, but it was especially hard to take on such short notice before our big trip.” Abnormally high protein levels were detected that day [which] led to a multiple myeloma diagnosis, which of course put the brakes on the Morgan family’s European vacation. Mona is under the care of skilled physicians at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and she vows to fight through the disease and re-schedule that trip. “It’ll be even better after all this,” she said (taken from http://www.uamshealth.com/?id=4945&sid=1). We’ve all had experiences in life when our best-laid plans don’t work out. Maybe you are living this very thing in your own life right now: plans and dreams that had to be sidelined and put on hold. On this Christmas Eve, surrounded by candlelight and the beautiful music of this season, the theme for this message is “Change of Plans for Christmas.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
As we celebrate God’s gift of his own Son born for us, we remember that Mary and Joseph also had a change of plans in their lives. Joseph’s plan to take Mary as his wife almost didn’t happen when he found out his wife-to-be was pregnant – and he was not the father. Scripture tells us that Joseph “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Actually, according to the Law Joseph could have brought charges against Mary and had her stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 22:13-21). But he didn’t do this. And what about Mary? As an unmarried young woman, what ridicule and rejection must she have experienced when her pregnancy was revealed? God intervened in their lives in an amazing way to accomplish his gracious purpose. And what was that purpose? That was made clear when the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). Through that change of plans for Mary and Joseph, the promised Messiah was born – not in a spacious palace or a warm and cozy cottage, but in a borrowed space next to the animals. Here is yet another example of how God often does the exact opposite of what we would expect! So those familiar words become fresh and take on new meaning for us today, of how “… she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger...” (Luke 2:7), and the words of the angels to the shepherds: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Did you hear those words? Perhaps we’ve heard them so often that they’ve lost their meaning for us. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…” The Son of God enters into this broken and sinful world, filled as it is with selfish greed and exploitation, prejudice and discrimination, injustice and corruption, fear and distrust, abuse and addiction, violence and terrorism at home and overseas. This is the world which Jesus willingly entered – for you! “For God so loved the world – God so loved you! – that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This isn’t just for the high and mighty, or the rich and famous. This isn’t just for people who have their act together and know where they’re headed in life. This isn’t just for the good people who look like they deserve a Savior. No, quite the opposite. This Savior is born for you –for each and every one of us, no matter how badly we may have messed things up. This Savior is born for you! This Jesus who was born for you, also lived, suffered and died on a cross for you. He gave his life for you that your life and mine might have a change of plans and a new direction. No longer is life for this world a downward, deathward spiral, sinking deeper and deeper into darkness and destruction. The birth of this Child signals that the strangle-hold of sin and death and hell has been broken, and a new light has dawned. Jesus is that light, and the darkness has not, cannot and will not overcome it (John 1:5).
One of my favorite holiday movies to watch every year is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You know how the story goes with the main character, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. His life is one constant change of plans, and much of this is completely outside his control. All he ever wanted to do was get out of his little hometown of Bedford Falls and see the world, but that was not to be. After his father’s death, he took over the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan, something he never wanted to do. He sent his younger brother, Harry, to college instead of going himself. He used his own honeymoon money as cash to pay out to customers in order to keep the Building & Loan afloat. Over time, all of these change of plans can beat a person down. George Bailey felt that way, and perhaps you know what that is like. When there is a change of plans in our own lives and we are tempted to sink into disappointment and frustration, remember this: unto you is born a Savior. The good news of this Christmas change-of-plans renews our hope and trust in God and in one another. As with Mary and Joseph, as with George Bailey, God is more than able to transform a change of plans into something infinitely greater and more wonderful than anything we could imagine. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with hom He is pleased.” Amen.