By Marcy Barthelette

He must be great because the preparation for His coming took thousands of years!

Ray Pritchard, Why He Came, Advent Devotionals

Never a truer statement has been made. From the time when Adam and Eve inhabited the Garden until an extremely crowded night in Bethlehem, believers contemplated the coming of a new king. He would no doubt be wrapped in royal finery and grow up to be a mighty warrior, one who could save them from their tormenters and restore them to a life they could only dream of.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Isaiah 9:6

But God, being God, had other plans. You know the drill. While we’re busy planning, God rearranges our lives, often making them inconvenient for a time, perhaps a very long time. But eventually, in His time, the story plays out just as He had planned.

You may recall the story of a favored son, Joseph, who found himself in the hands of jealous brothers planning to throw him into a pit and leave him to die. Instead, they sold him to traveling traders who in turn sold him to a man named Potiphar, captain of the palace guard for the king of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in the Lord helped him to become an indispensable part of Potiphar’s staff but also made him a target of Potiphar’s wife who accused him of raping her. Joseph was thrown into jail but his faith continued and he became a favorite of the prison warden. Through a series of dream interpretations, Joseph was placed in charge of all the king’s land and ultimately, as predicted in the dreams, a great famine devastated the land and Joseph was able to save his family from starvation because of the position he had attained. God’s plan took many years to unfold but Joseph grew in faith during that time.

And then there was a certain young shepherd who brought lunch to his brothers and found himself facing a giant with only a slingshot and a pouch of carefully chosen rocks. A horrific war was in progress and a father chose to send a boy to check on his brothers. On his arrival, David saw the magnitude of the battle and heard a challenge. He chose to face the giant who had been destroying everyone in his path and he won. It didn’t happen because David went there looking for a fight but because God set a plan in motion long before that day that would place him in that situation at that moment in time and through his faith and the invincibility of youth, David accomplished what no man had been able to do. It was no coincidence that David was there or that he became a great king later in life or that he loved God with all his heart, even through his failings. It is also no coincidence that God’s Son was born into His earthly life many generations later through the lineage of the same David.

His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. Isaiah 9:7a

And the birth of Jesus, being the greatest event ever in history, the one by which we mark our time as before and after, would certainly take a lot of planning. A virgin, chosen because of her betrothal to a different Joseph, one who descended from King David, was miraculously impregnated. A virgin birth was necessary because the Child had to be born free from sin. Mary accepted her role in the drama that was about to unfold and ultimately God spoke to Joseph through a dream and reassured him that all was well. When Mary was nearly due to give birth, the leader of the Roman world decreed that a census should be taken and Joseph, accompanied by Mary, headed to Bethlehem to be counted among those in that city, the land of Joseph’s ancestor, David. God always knew the town would be overrun with people and that the innkeeper would have to turn away the weary travelers, but a small spark of compassion prompted the offer of a stable where the couple could rest on the hay. They were barely settled when the Baby was delivered and wrapped in whatever rags were at hand.

She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7

Why a stable? I think it was appropriate that Jesus entered a dark and dirty world through a dark and smelly stable. After all, He came to bring cleansing to every person who would choose Him. Why were the lives of Mary and Joseph interrupted, why was a census decreed, and why did the innkeeper turn away an obviously pregnant woman? It all happened just as God had pre-ordained. But what an inauspicious entry for one who was supposed to be the king of the Christian world. That, however, was the point. God often speaks in a whisper.

It was a monumental task to align all the events preceding Jesus’ birth in such a way that they came together on one wonderful night in a smelly, dirty stable when everyone was so busy with travel and trading and finding a place to sleep that they didn’t take time to notice a miracle happening just down the road. Are we paying attention to the miracle right now during this Advent season? Are we hearing the whisper, seeing the star, singing with the angels?

Are we finding the hope that was offered that night, all in accordance with God’s plan and His good timing?

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.‘“ Matthew 1:23


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