Moving less than a month before Christmas is generally not something I recommend. Yet our family did just that. A move of 1300 miles. And trust me, by the time the furniture was delivered and we had unpacked the most important boxes, it didn’t have time to feel like Christmas was just around the corner. Remember that post I did a month ago about (Advent) New Year’s Resolutions? Yeah, none of that happened at our house. Advent ribbons? Not a chance. Advent devotions? We managed to start them about halfway through Advent. Memorizing Advent verses and hymns? Nope. Our Advent this year was pretty much the move and that’s it. But a funny thing happened. Despite the chaos and unpreparedness on my own part, Christmas came anyway.
When we think of Christmas in this day and age, we tend to think of all the exterior things that go along with it. Shopping, baking, parties, cards, Christmas music, chestnuts roasting on an open fire… Okay, maybe not the last one. Still, very little of that happened at our house this year. I did manage to get up a tree and decorations, mainly because those were the first and only decorations I unpacked. But I didn’t go shopping for gifts because we weren’t near a mall or Kohl’s or anything, so I didn’t see all the decorations and consumerism like I usually do. I wasn’t listening to the radio so I wasn’t hearing all those secular Christmas songs ad nauseum. By the time we thought of ordering gifts online, it was a scramble to get gifts for the kids and families, and gifts were still squeaking in on Christmas Eve, some even the day after Christmas. I did one kind of Christmas cookie with the kids, and even that was a stretch. Christmas cards? Are you kidding me? I didn’t even bother. And being a northern girl suddenly in a southern state, even the warm weather outside made it feel more like spring than Christmas. I wasn’t doing the music at church anymore so I wasn’t cramming in last minute practices either. It just didn’t feel like Christmas at all. But a funny thing happened. Despite all that, Christmas came anyway.
Let me tell you about another Christmas that almost didn’t happen. A very pregnant mother and her husband traveled about 80 miles well before the days of cars. They would have been on foot, or possibly a donkey. Regardless, I can’t imagine that trip was comfortable. I’m 7 1/2 months pregnant myself right now, and it’s all I can do to walk a mile or two. Even riding in a car is uncomfortable. I can’t imagine bumping along on a donkey. But the couple made this trip and arrived at their destination only to discover there were no rooms available for them. This was before the days of advance reservations, of course, so that couldn’t be helped. As the time of her delivery grew nearer, the best accommodation they could secure was a stable. The baby was born there and laid in a humble manger. And this wasn’t just any baby, either. This child was the Son of God. Again, being pregnant, I can’t imagine not having pre-registered at a hospital of choice, with sterile utensils and doctors and clean sheets. Labor and delivery are hard enough, even on a “soft” hospital bed. On the ground in a stable? No thanks. It seems like this whole plan was just thrown together at the last moment, hardly a fitting arrival for God in the flesh. But a funny thing happened. Emmanuel, God with us, came anyway.
You see, here’s the thing. God often does things in unexpected ways. I didn’t expect to be moving so far away so close to Christmas. I like to have things as well planned out as possible, and this year I felt like I was completely unprepared for the holiday. But perhaps that’s for the best. Because, you see, it’s not what I do that makes the whole Advent/Christmas season special. It’s what God has already done. It was unexpected that God would choose a lowly Nazareth girl to bear His Son. I’m sure she didn’t expect to give birth in an unfamiliar town in a stable, either. And when Jesus grew up and gained a following and people started to believe in Him as the Messiah, they looked for one who would save them from the Romans. It was completely unexpected that this Messiah would die on a cross. It was even more unexpected that He would rise from the dead three days later. And yet, it was the perfect plan all along, from start to finish.
So don’t worry too much about outward preparations. If you don’t have just the right gifts or a certain quota of Christmas cookies or send out cards the week after Thanksgiving next year, relax. Instead, take the time to reflect on God’s unexpected work in salvation history—that baby in the manger who was “born that man no more may die.” No matter where you find yourself next Christmas, no matter what your outward circumstances may be, no matter how prepared you feel, believe me, Christmas will come anyway.