“Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that the world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the Architect who calls Himself Alpha and Omega.” Claude Kilby
“In Him we have been chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
I watched Barbara with awe. She was on a mission. For weeks she meticulously planned every detail for our Christmas celebration. From decorating the tree, putting up wreaths, hanging bells, displaying angels, preparing recipes, buying presents, shopping for food, she carefully and passionately worked the details. Busy making Japanese Fruit Cake (The kind Aunt Ruby used to make.); making my favorite apple pie at one in the morning, (the kind my Mom made.) Everything must be perfect. Christmas was on the calendar and Brett, Chad, Katelyn, her granddaughter Brady and her new grandson, Thomas, were coming home. It would be our first Christmas together! One great hope drove her: That her family would experience a taste of the joy and glory that was shone upon the world on that first Christmas Day.
The Scripture speaks of another mission. It was first in the heart of God before the creation of the world. God determined to send His Son to earth before He made it. The coming of His Son would be the moment in time where he would display the fullness of his joy and the splendor of His holiness. All of His creative acts and His working in history pointed to this one grand event. A world of sin, death and darkness would be invaded by a glorious, God-honoring, sin destroying, people-delighting, Son! God would make sure that day was perfect. He worked meticulously to get every detail in its place. That day would be filled with joyful singing and gift giving by His people. The zeal of the Lord would accomplish it. (Isaiah 9:7)
What I want us to see is how meticulously and exhaustively he works His plan, to prepare and present the first perfect Christmas for us. The birth of baby Jesus was not an accident, not a decision of man, not a random birth. Thousands of details needed to be worked out to bring about this glorious event, just as God determined, at His appointed time. Nothing was left to chance. Nothing!
The God who prophesied, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. He shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6); also declared, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do what I please.’” (Isaiah 46:9-11) Amazing as it may sound, God was pleased to send his Son into the world in the body of a baby.
You see, God does nothing willy-nilly, leaves nothing to chance, does nothing without purpose. He is meticulous: He personally oversees every detail. His plan is exhaustive: it draws from all places, times and peoples. The first hint of a future Christmas happened in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:15) The fulfillment of that promise happened in a stall in Bethlehem of Judea, thousands of years later. (Luke 2:1-7) Luke traces a detailed lineage of Jesus way back to Adam and Eve. Matthew traces his back to Abraham. All of the names listed in those two genealogies were meticulously selected and woven into God’s intent to reveal the lineage of the coming King.
And God not only chose individuals, he worked through world history, raising kings and lowering kingdoms. Think of all the battles that were won and enemies vanquished by God’s sovereign acts in order to establish the Roman empire and to bring about her Pax Romana to the empire. Even before the Romans, he was spreading the Hellenistic culture and the Greek language that would be used to write the Bible and communicate the gospel. He even saw to it that roads would be constructed by the Romans to move their armies quickly into battle, and later used by the Christians to spread the Gospel.
Paul gives us a hint as to how carefully even the timing of this day was set on God’s calendar, when he writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.” (Galatians 4:6). The English words “fully come” are translated from the Greek word “pleroma,” which means “filled to fullness,” and “completion.” It was used to describe a ship that was fully loaded and ready to take sail. It was also used to describe a woman whose baby filled her womb and was ready to be delivered. Nothing would happen, could happen, until God put everything in place.
And think of the immediate details meticulously worked out by God to make this moment eternally joyful. Caesar Augustus was raised to the throne of the Roman Empire at just the right time. He was moved to declare a census through-out his empire which extended to a little town called Bethlehem. God chose two unknown teenagers, Mary, a virgin, to be the mother of His Son, and Joseph, who would provide a home for him in his early years. He set a special star in the skies to draw wise men from the East, long before the birth took place. He placed shepherds in the field and sent a chorus of angels to sing of God’s glory. He even caused a “no vacancy” sign to be placed throughout Bethlehem so that the birth of the King would be born in a barn. The exact moment was set. Every detail was carefully put in place. The glory of God would be seen and men would rejoice.
That is the kind of God we serve. He not only promises what he will do, he patiently and meticulously works it out according to His own time schedule. He is not restricted by time as we are. 2 Peter 3:8 says it like this: “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We are impatient. He is not. But, we can be assured of one thing: He is never late nor will he fail to give us less than His best. He works His eternal plan in history at the right time and the perfect way. No detail escapes His notice nor skirts His sovereign will. (Matthew 6:25-34)
What lessons can we learn from God’s meticulous and exhaustive planning of the first Christmas?
- Christmas is a story about an eternal God who sovereignly plans and brings about His eternal passion to glorify himself in the midst of His creation. No detail is too small. No challenge is too great. His glory will be seen and his people will be blessed because of it.
- Christmas reveals that God’s glory will not only be seen, it will bring rejoicing. Jesus, the baby, the Son of God has come to bring us peace. Christmas is much more than human tradition. It is a miracle of God designed to give us everlasting joy.
- Christmas reminds us that God can and does know and direct every detail of our lives for our good, so that we can live life with hope and confidence. No problem nor enemy can keep our God from blessing us with an eternal life of joy in Jesus Christ, both now and forever.
- Christmas means we can walk into the new year with hope and expectation, knowing that God will see to it that we will receive His best for our lives as we trust Him and join him in the displaying His glory to our darkened world. We may have to wait but He is never late.
- Christmas means that all of the hard work and meticulous attention to detail Barb had so lovingly put into her preparations, would not be wasted. God’s zeal to display his glory has not lessened since the day He sent his Son. Our family Christmas, by God’s gracious and meticulous work, was glorious! We saw His glory through our family. The zeal of the Lord accomplished it. He will do the same in 2022 and beyond.