ďGodís Other PlansĒ
One of my favorite questions to ask my daughters is, ďWhat do you want to be when you grow up?Ē† Of course, their answer frequently changes from time to time depending on what their interests are at the moment, but it is fun to hear their aspirations about their future.† The wonderful thing about a question like this is that it makes them to look beyond the present and into a time that for them is very far off, but the most important thing about this question is that it makes them think about the unlimited possibilities and potential they have.† Nothing is out of reach, everything and anything is possible.
And yet we all know that as we grow older, our plans for the future become more fine tuned, and we realize that our unlimited possibilities and potentials are not so unlimited.† Not only do our gifts and abilities begin to define more and more what we are able and not able to do, but also our life circumstances begin to reshape and often times redirect our great youthful aspirations.
† ††††††† When I graduated from college and began looking for a job, one of the questions I was always asked by future employers, and later a certain PNC committee was, ďWhat are your plans five or ten years from now?Ē† Kind of like an adult version of, ďWhat do you want to be when you grow up?Ē† Of course, what they really want to know is if I have aspirations for the future, and whether or not I have thought about my future goals and plans, and whether or not Iím working to accomplish them.† At first, my answer was rather clear.† I was going to work in the transportation industry, hopefully in some area of aviation.† But what I soon found out was that God had other plans.
††††††††† I wonder what
Maryís aspirations and hopes were when she was a little girl?† Living in the small town of
††††††††† The story of Maryís encounter with the angel Gabriel is a wonderful story full of great hope, a little bit of humor, but also a lot of apprehension.† At first glance, Gabrielís words about just who it is Mary will give birth to would cause anyone to be overjoyed and greatly flattered.† To say that Maryís future was beyond her wildest dreams is a huge understatement.† I doubt she considered this possibility at all.† In her great youthful plan, I doubt she said to herself, ďWhen I grow up Iím going to give birth to the Son of the Most High, and he will be given the throne of the King David, and he will be the ruler of a kingdom that has no end.Ē† She may have had big dreams, but I doubt they were this big.
††††††††† However, the reality of this story is that for Mary her circumstances in life had already defined her future for her.† She was no longer a little girl, but now an older teenager; a teenager engaged to an older man, which was most likely a planned engagement.† And now to hear news that she would conceive and bear a son, not only shocked her, but would have filled her with enormous anxiety and apprehension.† After all, she was still a virgin, and not even married, and her pregnancy would certainly not sit well with her family, let alone Josephís.† In fact, Gabrielís message wasnít good news for her at all, but life threatening news.† Yea, some divine favor she had.†
††††††††† You canít blame Mary for her misgivings and apprehensions about what was in store for her.† Godís other plans for were not what she expected and as we now they certainly were not going to be easy.† Little does she know that in a very short time, she would have to go on a long and weary journey to a new town, where there will be no room for them to sleep, that she would give birth to her son in a animal barn, and lay him in a feeding trough.†
Little does she know that she will someday be a single mom, living in poverty and obscurity in a small town where at least one person in the gospel says that nothing good comes from there.† Little does she know now that the son she will have will be hated and despised, that he will be condemned for blasphemy and sedition, that he will only live to be 33 years old, and that she will witness his horrific death as she sits at the foot of his cross.†
No, Godís plans donít always fit so snuggly into our own big plans for the future, and sometimes they arenít always easy.† Sometimes, they are down right hard to endure, at best leaving us, like Mary, to maybe even reluctantly remark as she did, ďLet it be with me according to your Word,Ē or at worse leaving us to resign ourselves to our cruel fate as we utter the words of C-3PO in Star Wars when he says, ďI was made to suffer.† Itís my lot in life.Ē† No, Godís plans for us donít always match up to our great scheme of things, and they donít always fit into our perceived expectations of what it means to have divine favor.† But the good news is that God does have other plans.†
††††††††† My friends, this story for us today is not just about Mary, but most importantly, itís about Godís action in her life, in the ordinary life of an ordinary teenage girl.† This story is about the proclamation that God is about to do something new, not just in Maryís life, but in the life of the world.† God has a purpose for her that is beyond her limited vision, beyond her understanding of how things are to be, for little does Mary know now that the same son she will see die on the cross will be he same son will be raised from the dead.
Like Mary, we too see from with a limited vision and understanding of how things will be for us in the future.† Sometimes that vision is clearer than at other times.† Many times it is only after the fact, in hindsight, that we are able to say, ďNow I understand.Ē† But at no time should we become cynical fatalists in believing that we are stuck in some divine pre-programmed simulation waiting for Godís big game to end.†
Godís plans for us may go beyond our limited perceptions and understanding, and they may not fit into our expectations of what our future will and should be for us, but the good news is that God does have other plans, other plans that have farther reaching implications and purposes that we can even possibly hope to understand.†
Mary cannot possibly completely grasp what this pregnancy and birth will mean, not just for her, but for all of humanity, for the one she will give birth to in a manager, will be the one who will reveal the very heart and character of God, will be the one who will reveal and make possible Godís plan of salvation, will be the one who will truly be the Son of the Most High.†
But, my friends, let me tell you what I believe is the most glorious good news of our text for today.† The most glorious good news is that if God can work in the life of an ordinary teenage girl, and through her bring about the fulfillment of Godís plan and purpose for the world, then God can work and in fact does work in our own ordinary lives for the very same plan and purpose.† Thatís right.† We too have an active and important role to play in Godís work in salvation history, in Godís work in fulfilling Godís plan and purpose for the reconciliation and the redemption of the whole world in Jesus Christ.†††
God doesnít choose the best and the brightest from us to do Godís work, but rather God chooses all of us ordinary people, with all of our faults and apprehensions, with all of our best hopes and dreams as well as our worst fears and doubts, and bestows upon us the divine favor of grace to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves, beyond our wildest dreams and expectations, beyond even our own plans for our future, because God has other plans in mind for us.
As Advent comes to an end for us, and we turn our thoughts about preparing ourselves for Christís return to preparing ourselves to celebrate again the birth of our Lord and Savior, the question for us today is whether or not we are willing to commit ourselves to Godís other plans.† This is no small question for us to answer.†
Godís other plans are not always easy, and their paths are not always so clear, and we may tremble at the uncertainty of where those paths will lead us, but will we, like Mary, commit ourselves anyway, even if at first reluctantly?† Will we commit ourselves solely based on the promise of Godís heavenly angel that with God nothing will be impossible?† This may be one of the greatest tests of our faith that we will face in turning our lives completely over to God, and seeking Godís plans for us rather than our own.†
But in doing so, we can rest in the assurance and most certain knowledge that Godís plan and purpose for us will be revealed, as it already has been revealed in Jesus Christ, and as it will be finally and fully revealed on the day of our redemption, for it is the lives which have been given something great to do and to bear, even though they may have been bruised in the process, which will come to truly know the favor of God and the discovery of the fulfillment of life to which Godís grace brings.
Thanks be to God that for world, God had other plans for Mary, and thanks be to God that for the world, God has other plans for us too.† Amen.