Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent and the Unexpected

We of course don’t truly know all of the things that Mary was feeling as she awaited the birth of her Perfect Son, but as we’ve been in our own season of Advent, of waiting, I’ve been imagining what Mary might have been feeling as she herself anticipated the birth of Jesus.

Surely she felt the feelings of awe, joy, anticipation, excitement, and wonder. She was about to give birth to God’s own Son! We to seek to focus our hearts on those same feelings as we remember just exactly what Jesus’ birth means to us as believers. It means everything! 

But I’ve also been wondering what sort of natural motherly feelings and concerns Mary might have been having. Here is the most significant event of her life and most significant event in eternity, and she finds herself headed on an arduous journey far from her home to an unknown place that she can’t even fully envision considering they didn’t know where they would stay while there. She, like every mother, had likely spent much time nesting and dreaming about the arrival of her baby boy. Then the decree calling for the census goes out and all of those dreams abruptly change their setting.  Mary had likely prepared her home and had been picturing in her mind what Jesus arrival might look like there, surrounded by those close to her, in her lovingly prepared home.  I can imagine the concern and perhaps grief that she may have felt as she realized that it was likely that she would be living far from home, who knows where (though probably better that she didn’t know she'd be in a stable at that point!) when her baby boy and Lord entered the world. Nothing went as she had planned and expected! Far from it!

But, that was God’s perfect plan! He intended to come in a way, time, and place that nobody, not even Jesus’ own mother, could have expected. 

During the Advent season and as the actual day of Christmas approaches I know that each of us have had hopes, plans, and expectations for what this season will be like. But so often, for one reason or another, this season and the actual day look so very different than we had hoped and planned that it would. Despite these unexpected turns though, Jesus, Immanuel, is coming! He is with us!

(This is what our Advent season has looked like)

For my family, this year’s Advent season has meant weeks of ongoing illness. Stomach flu, flu, and now one with bronchitis and two more kids with high fevers…  MY plans involved friends, and special celebrations, and eating yummy treats, and happy times singing songs to Jesus, but instead we’ve had countless days of kids in bed, no appetites, feverish and sleepless nights, and weeks separated from friends… It is tempting to fall into self pity, but thinking of the unexpected yet sovereignly ordained circumstances that Mary found herself in for Jesus arrival, and how God made those circumstance perfect for His coming (though certainly not easy), has helped me to see this change of plans differently and to try to look for the things that God has prepared for us this Christmas season that we may not have planned to focus on otherwise. We’ve focused a lot on the Lord’s comfort and care, His love, and His power to heal. We've thought about how He is enough and though celebrations and traditions are meaningful and fun, they are not the reason that we celebrate.  I’m thankful for these special things to focus on as we remember that Jesus truly is Immanuel, God with us, no matter our circumstance!  

Has this season of Advent and soon approaching Christmas day gone as you had expected, or have you also found yourself in unexpected circumstances as you wait to celebrate Jesus’ coming? How have you experienced Jesus as your Immanuel, your God-with-you, during the events of your life this season? Merry Christmas, dear friends! I pray that you experience the closeness of our Lord coming near in ways like never before!


  1. Merry Christmas, Ashley! So sorry for all the sickness. It is HARD when that happens, especially at Christmas time. That was our holiday 2 Christmases ago - I had 4 super sickies (the littles); my husband left with the big ones to go camping at a nearby game park. It was a long 3 days while he was gone. :-) Hugs!

    Can't say our Advent/Christmas season has gone along like I expected, but there have been truly beautiful moments as well as heart wrenching ones. Which, to me, points to what Christ was willing to accept as He draped Himself in humanity.

    Just prayed for your family - hope the sickies start feeling better soon.

  2. Thanks Ashley! I read the title of this and decided to tuck it away for a few days we too have had the Christmas of the unexpected. At one point my friend said, I don't think I've ever had a Christmas when I felt so sad.

    I love that Advent in itself is the anticipation of the fulfillment of the promise, so in this season we have tried to focus on anticipating what God will do with eager and heavy hearts. Merry Christmas.

  3. Richelle, thank you so much for your empathy and prayers. Yes, it has been a hard Christmas season for us. Our baby boy was very sick by Christmas Eve, prompting a visit from the doctor and lots of "to-do" trying to get the right meds and such, but praise God, the antibiotics kicked in quickly and within a day he was getting a bit better. It was the best Christmas gift! I loved what you said about reflecting on what Jesus "was willing to accept as He draped Himself in humanity." So true and powerful.

    Amie, I have thought of you so much and the very unexpected circumstances that you guys are in right now. I am praying for your dear family and hope you've experienced the closeness of Jesus this Christmas. I still would love to Skype sometime if you're up for it and have access. Just let me know a time and let's make a plan! Hugs!