It was a year like no other. No one saw it coming, and no one will ever forget it.
Ultimately, it changed the course of history worldwide.
Thought I was talking about 2020?
Sorry, I was describing a year that really changed the world—the year that Jesus was born.
It all started in the Temple when it was Zechariah’s turn to burn incense before the Lord in the Temple. No one outside knew exactly what happened, but they were sure something unusual occurred when he came out of the Temple unable to speak. What they didn’t know was that Zechariah encountered an angel and heard a prophecy that started the ball rolling.
Next thing you know, the angel’s prophecy came true and Zechariah’s previously barren wife, Elizabeth, was pregnant.
Then a few months later, another angel appears—this time to a young virgin in Galilee telling her that she would have a baby Who would be the Son of God. Try explaining that one to your fiancé!!
Thankfully, she didn’t have to because another angel appeared to Joseph telling him that Mary’s child really was the Son of God and that he should marry Mary and raise the child.
Then just like it looked like things would calm down—they proclaimed a census.
Like news of the shut-down, this rocked the ancient world. If they had social media back then, I’m sure everyone would have been posting memes complaining about it. “What do you mean everyone has to stop their lives and travel to their home town to be counted and taxed?”
What a hassle! Especially if you are 9 months pregnant!
Still, the government mandated it, so Mary and Joseph had to make the arduous 90-mile journey on foot to Bethlehem.
Of course, when they arrived, there was no where to stay. While this was partially due to overcrowding, there’s a good chance that the relatives who should have taken them in refused because of the scandal surrounding Mary’s pregnancy. (Yep, even then, word traveled fast.)
Thankfully, a barn was provided for Mary to give birth.
Surrounded by stinky animals, a baby was born. But this wasn’t just any baby. It was God Himself taking on the form of a man so that He could live among us, live a sinless life, eventually die on the cross for our sins, and raise again to conquer sin and death.
This isn’t just a story. These people aren’t just characters in a movie.
They really lived.
These events really happened.
Angels really did sing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Shepherds really heard their song and came to Bethlehem to see the baby in a manger.
God actually took on human flesh so that the course of history could be changed.
The funny thing is that while many were looking for the Messiah to come, no one expected it to happen this way. It wasn’t in their plans. Most of the world missed it altogether.
Still, every event that occurred followed God’s plan just as it had been laid out hundreds of years earlier through the prophets.
This pattern continued throughout Jesus’ life and death as each prophecy was fulfilled, as the Old Testament Law gave way to New Testament grace, and the relationship that sin broke between God and man was restored.
It all happened just as God planned. Yet, while it was happening, it all looked so crazy.
Beyond the beautiful story of redemption unfolding, there are some other truths we can take from this story as we prepare to FINALLY say “goodbye” to 2020.
First, God always has a plan to advance His kingdom.
Even though we might not understand His plan or things might not go the way we think they should, His plans are always right.
As Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The fact is that God’s plans are always better than ours. As believer’s we need to learn to trust that His plans and go with His flow.
Second, God always has a plan to protect His people and advance His Church.
Reading through Luke 1 and 2, we see that the people living these events went through some pretty difficult times. Zechariah went mute. Elizabeth had an older, high-risk pregnancy. Mary faced scandal and potential death for having a baby before she was married. Joseph thought he’d been betrayed by his fiancé. Even after he saw the angel, he surely faced ridicule for the circumstances people didn’t understand.
The census was a huge hassle.
The trip was torture and the baby was born in a barn.
None of this was ideal.
Turn the page to Matthew 2, we read that Jesus’ birth created a national catastrophe when Herod started killing babies under 2 years of age and Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt.
Yet, despite all of the chaos, all of the potential danger, and all of the hard times, God always provided protection for His people and a way of escape as they continued to carry out His plans.
Because God never changes, we can count on Him to do the same for us as we live for Him and continue to do whatever it takes to advance His kingdom.
This truth should give us peace to know that whatever circumstances we face, if we are walking in obedience to God, then He will do the same for us. Our job is to follow Him and let Him take care of the rest.
Finally, the question is not “Does God have a plan?”, but, “Am I walking in God’s plan?”
So often when we go through difficult times or face challenging circumstances, we wonder if God has a plan. But points #1 and #2 remind us that God always has a good plan that includes His people to advance His kingdom.
The question each of us needs to ask ourselves is: “Am I following God’s plan for my life?”
To really answer this question we need to ask ourselves some other harder questions like:
Am I making time to develop a personal relationship with Jesus?
Do I take time to pray and hear God’s plans for my life?
Am I reading the Bible so that I know God’s will for my life?
Am I obeying what the Bible teaches?
Are there any areas where I am choosing to disobey God’s Word?
Digging a little deeper, we need to ask ourselves, is there anything that God has asked me to do that I am not doing?
Will I, like Mary, Joseph, and the others do whatever God asks of me, whatever it takes?
Am I willing to be a part of God’s plan even if it requires sacrifice and faith?
If God interrupts my life and asks me to travel a hard road, am I willing?
Am I willing to follow God whenever, however, wherever? Will I do whatever it takes?
For the men and women in the Christmas story, the answer was “Yes”. Because of this, they were included in God’s plan. God led them, provided for them, protected them, and used them to advance His kingdom.
Will you follow their example?
Ending 2020 the way we began, I’ll ask, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes?”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.