Last week I wrote in my journal, “what if we changed our prayers to – God do the unexpected.”
I had been studying the Christmas story, asking the Lord to give me a new lens to view it through. As I broke down the different parts of the story, I realized that story of Jesus arrival has a theme woven throughout all aspects of it. The theme that God does the unexpected.
Often, without us even realizing it, our prayers are saturated with self and hidden amongst our words is a slight level of control. When we pray and ask God to meet our expectations that is not complete surrender. When we pray “God do the unexpected” that is us bowing completely to the way He wants to write the story. His will, His way.
We all have expectations but Jesus was wants to exceed them. Paul says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” [Ephesians 3:20]. More than we can ask or imagine, beyond our expectations. He doesn’t want to do what you expect Him to do. He wants to do more. He is the God of the unexpected and with Him, the unexpected makes for the best stories.
I started praying for it. I started asking for God to do the unexpected in my life. He answered.
Monday I had to buy new tires.
Tuesday I was supposed to work all day but the family canceled.
Wednesday I hit a piece of someone’s tire on the interstate and had to have my car towed.
Thursday I was supposed to work again but without a car that couldn’t happen.
To top it all off, my best friend and I have had a Christmas party event scheduled for high school girls for over a month now. There has been a lot of 2 a.m. nights and many google docs shared back and forth as we invested so much time and energy into making this night the best it could be. Nobody in the state of Georgia plans for snow in the first weekend of December. Waking up to the winter wonderland in our backyards meant one thing: we were going to have to cancel.
So here I am, sitting in my living room next to my Christmas tree, when I would have been setting up for a night I have dreamed about. It has been a week full of God not doing what I expected. However, I know that I have had no control over any it. The only thing I have had control over was the way I was going to respond.
All week long, as things didn’t go my way, I would ponder the Christmas story and think about Mary and Joseph’s responses to their unexpected events.
Mary, a teenage girl, visited by the angel Gabriel, with the message that she would conceive and give birth to a son. Mary’s response was this, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” [Luke 1:38] Most of us wrestle with the idea of obedience to the Lord like it is our full-time job and here is Mary, knowing full well the society she lives in and how people will think of her. She responds with faith, not frustration. Faith is stepping without fully understanding. Mary stepped.
Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph. In the New Testament times, betrothal was a form of engagement but it was more binding than engagement today. It could only be broken by divorce. An engaged couple did not live together until the marriage ceremony but unfaithfulness on a part of the betrothed was treated as adultery and punishable by death. A cloud of suspicion and scandal hovered over Mary. Joseph did not know the condition or the explanation of Mary being impregnated. What he did know was how this would appear to others. It would seem she had been unfaithful to him and that he would be accused of involvement.
Joseph’s love for Mary and upholding the law caused friction, leading him to the decision to quietly divorce her. But then an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and spoke into his preconceived plans and told him to do otherwise. Joseph was awakened to truth and ultimately it led to his response. He would choose faith instead of the fear of shattering his image. Faith is going, despite what others might say. Joseph went.
None of us have been or ever will be in the narrative Joseph and Mary were in but their responses should be the example we follow when it comes to responding to the unexpected events.
Joseph’s delayed response of faith was simply because He had not heard the truth. However, when he did his response changed. It is the same with us. Once we have heard truth and seen The Truth our responses must be different from those who have not.
We cannot control the unexpected events but we can control our response to choose faith in the middle of it. Often the unexpected turns into what we need the most.
Christmas is this – the collision of unexpected events.
Flesh and divinity.
Man and majesty.
The arrival of The Savior in a stable.
A choir of angels singing to the shepherds, not the saints.
The Prince of heaven becoming poor.
Sin meeting the spotless lamb.
As believers, each of our stories are our sinful lives colliding with His mercy.
And it all started with a baby. I have to think that just as all babies do, from His mouth came a cry and from His eyes fell tears. The unexpected and tears collided together not signaling the end but a new beginning. The unexpected and tears collided together to write what we now call the Christmas story. The unexpected and tears collided together not for the sake of pain, although there was pain. The unexpected and tears collided together for a purpose.
This Christmas, I hope we do not settle for praying for the ideas our finite minds manage to think up. I hope we pray the bold prayer, “God do the unexpected.”
Because our unexpected circumstances and His undeserving grace and mercy always collide together to create a story that is worth telling.
We see a stable. We see a manager. We see a baby. We see the cross. We see the empty tomb. We see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.
We see and when we see we respond differently. Even when things don’t go the way we planned.