by Molly Audiss

The Christmas story is such an amazing story. Only God could have brought together so many amazing details for the birth of His Son on Earth!  We don’t know how far along Mary was in her pregnancy was she traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph. This was a work trip, not a “Babymoon.” They had to go to pay their taxes at a very inconvenient time. “Being great with child” sounds to me like she was in her 3rd trimester, but we are not told how long the couple stayed in town before she gave birth. No, the Bible does not say that she was riding on a donkey. I’ve had three children, and my guess is that she was NOT riding on a donkey at the end of a pregnancy! Possibly she was in a cart drawn by an animal. There really are many details that we fill in as we read the account of Christ’s birth in Luke 2. A study of the culture of that region at that time suggests that Mary and Joseph may have been staying in a cave outside of town where animals were kept. Possibly they were in that cave for a few weeks…we can’t know for sure. How old were they? Mary may have been a young teen girl. Again, we cannot know.

One thing that seems almost certain, and that is the fact that their circumstances were not what they would have wanted. Mary most certainly would have preferred to be at home near her loved ones. As a young, new mother, she may have been quite nervous the closer she came to her due date. She may have known the midwife of her village quite well, and had been speaking with her often, asking many questions, planning and preparing for childbirth. But it was not to be. Joseph, obviously a man of great character, with a strong sense of duty, certainly would have wanted to give Mary all the comfort and security he could when “her time” came. But it was not to be. He could not even provide a comfortable room with a clean bed for her. Did he feel a sense of failure for their circumstances?

Looking at this story from a human vantage point, it seems that somebody messed up. A cave? Surrounded by smelly animals? He knew that his wife carried the Savior of the world in her womb, the Promised Messiah. The One they had all been waiting for so long! And this miraculous birth happened….in a cave? Far from home. Away from family. I wonder how he felt those last few days as he helped Mary lie down in the straw. It seemed like a mistake.

But it was no mistake. We can easily see this because we can read the entire story in the Bible. The angels appeared in the sky and told the shepherds. The shepherd came to see the baby. The shepherds could not so easily have seen the Christ-child if he was born in an inn. All the details were actually the way God had planned. Nothing was a mistake. We know that looking back, but how would we have felt if we were Joseph and Mary, in those final few days before Jesus was born?

So often we struggle with circumstances in our lives that we feel have been brought about because of our mistakes. Human error. If we hadn’t “messed up,” then things would be different. Such-n-such would never have happened. Life would be so much better if we hadn’t made wrong choices, poor decisions. We failed. Or someone else failed us. Either way, our life is not what it should be because of human errors. Are you sure? You may just be too close to it to be objective.

Just like the story of the nativity, lots of things can seem less than ideal in our lives, but things are EXACTLY as God has planned. The Lord may be using every single seemingly negative circumstance in our lives to create His perfect will. Do you believe that? Can you believe that God is working, right now, in every tiny detail of the life you are living? He is. It may look like a mess, and you may feel like the failure who caused the mess. But look up. God is in control. He knows what He is doing. He sees the bigger picture. Trust Him.

I wonder how much energy we waste on guilt and shame and regret? I wonder how much we miss because we cannot get past our mistakes. Wouldn’t it be so freeing if we gave our circumstances to the Lord, fully believing in God’s timing. Trusting in His sovereignty. What a weight is lifted from our shoulders when we see God’s hand in every detail of our lives. Those mistakes, He can work it out for good. He knows what we need, even when trials are what we need! Praise Him in the storm. Trust that, even the daily frustrations can be used as tools to make us better.

I love a phrase our pastor says often, “God knows how to draw a straight line with a crooked stick.” We are all broken. Human beings are known for messing up! We are nothing but dust, and our Heavenly Father knows that. It’s a good thing that He has never for one moment surrendered control to any mere human. God is in charge! We are all that He has to work with, but that never keeps Him from accomplishing His will in this world. His plans are always accomplished! He reigns!

Possibly we make ourselves too important when we dwell on our past and our mistakes and our poor decisions, day after day, year after year. We just aren’t that powerful that we can ruin God’s plan. He knows a 1000 ways to fulfill his will, regardless of human error.

Rejoice! Stay humble! We fall. We fail. We get up. We try again. And in all of it, God’s work marches on, unhindered. Let’s take our eyes off of what we did wrong and how we messed up. Let’s raise our eyes and our praise to the One Who does all things well. We are more than conquerors through Him!

As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Psalm 18:30