Mary’s Unexpected Christmas: How to Handle When God Interrupts

I wrote previously about how Christmas is not about having the perfect celebration. Christmas is about God interrupting our plans. He does so for His glory and our good. He has a grander plan that is coming true and He is inviting us to be a participant in it.

No greater example of this can be found than in the person of Mary. Mary goes from being a young girl from a small town, engaged to be married, to being personally invited into a much larger plan, a plan which will “ruin” many plans that she has already made.

I am sure you have had your plans interrupted too; perhaps by crisis or catastrophe. Maybe it was the loss of a job, the unexpected diagnosis, or the unanticipated accident that interrupted your best laid plans. You didn’t see it coming and it makes you wonder what is going on and whether God is in control. My challenge for you: watch how Mary handles it.

Read her story in Luke 1:26-38.  Mary’s actions can serve as a model of how to respond when God interrupts our plans. She reveals important clues on how to have faith when God interrupts and changes the plans we have made.

  1. It’s okay to be confused v29

“But she was very perplexed”

Sometimes, when the unexpected happens, many people feel like the “Christian” thing to do is to be excited about what is happening. But that is not the case. Mary shows us that it is okay to be confused. An angel walks into her house and starts changing all the plans she had made for herself. Mary had an appropriate human response. She was confused and perplexed. She didn’t understand.

Its okay to be confused…

Because when we are confused, we realize we don’t know, we realize our smallness…

Being confused is humbling. It reveals we don’t have all the answers. It shows we don’t have everything figured out. And that is a good thing. God puts us into places where we are confused to show us that we are very small and need to learn we aren’t as big as we think we are.

Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Notice what Paul says specifically in v8: perplexed, but not despairing. God sometimes puts us in positions of confusion so that we realize that we don’t have it figured out and that we are weak and that we don’t know what we are doing. He doesn’t do this to abandon us. He does it to show us that he is wise, he is strong, and he has a plan. As Paul says in v7 above “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”

  1. It’s okay to wrestle with it v29

“She kept pondering”

Sometimes when the unexpected happens, most people think that what they are supposed to do is simply shrug their shoulders, mumble something about how God knows best, then just keep plugging along. That is not the case at all. We are not only allowed to wrestle with what God is going in our lives, I think we are supposed to.

By wrestling with it, I mean trying to figure it out, analyzing why you are upset, considering how it could be a good thing, voicing your bewilderment, and chewing on it over and over. I am not talking about stewing on something, or anxiously trying to figure out a way out, but thoughtfully mulling over what is going on and how this can be the work of a good God.

Its okay to wrestle with it…

Because when we wrestle, God can change us…

Wrestling means engaging with God and using our whole selves. When we wrestle with the thing, or ourselves, or with God, we are putting ourselves in motion and it gives God opportunity to move us, change us, direct us down the path He has for us.

  1. It’s okay to ask questions v34

“How can this be?”

For some reason, a lot of people get a faulty notion that they aren’t allowed to ask questions at church.  Again, it’s the grin and bear it mentality. Many people think that when God changes our plans, our job is to stoically accept whatever he decrees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scripture is filled with people asking God questions, being confused by what God is up to, and even bargaining with God (wouldn’t recommend this unless you happen to have the word “prophet” in your job description). God desires to interact with us. We pay lip service to this with phrases like “having a relationship with God” but functionally our lives look more like we believe our job is to receive orders from God and do what we are told.

There is a common scene that repeats itself over and over. A person makes an appointment with a trusted friend, mentor, or pastor. After a few minutes of small talk, they finally say what is on their mind. “I think I am losing my faith.” “Why?” the interlocutor responds. “Because…” and what follows is a serious question to an important issue that this person has. And this person feels like it’s wrong to think it, much less ask it. They feel guilty that the question occurred to them. By the way, the question that normally follows is usually along the lines that “Sometimes I look at all the evil in the world and wonder if God really exists.” If you have ever had this question or other hard questions, be encouraged by a couple of things. First, that is a great question and you are allowed to ask it. Second, take courage that there are answers out there. In a culture where questions aren’t encouraged, we sometimes don’t realize how deep and strong the foundations of Christianity are. Third, you aren’t losing your faith, you are gaining it. Don’t run from the areas where you have doubts or questions or uncertainty. Those are the areas where God is trying to mature your understanding and show you more of who He is.

It’s okay to ask questions…

Because when we ask questions, God can answer…

We say God is personal and wants a relationship with us. But we live functionally like we don’t expect it. Wrestling with hard things is a good way to interact with God. To voice questions, mull things over, and ask God for answers. Asking questions puts the ball back in God’s court. Ask, keep asking, and see if God doesn’t answer. The Bible is full of promises that if we call to God, He will answer. When we ask questions, we give Him the chance to do so.

  1. It’s important to surrender v38

“Behold the bondslave of the Lord…”

It’s ok to be confused. It’s okay to wrestle with the situation. It’s okay to ask questions. If you ever wondered what it means to “seek God” these examples provide a pretty decent starting point. Something happens and you need answers so you seek God, you go looking for Him. Being confused, wrestling, and asking questions are all signs of going to God and wanting to know what he is up to.

Beyond these, though, is an attribute of Mary that is important to include. Mary didn’t just do the first three actions. She also surrendered to the will of God. Verse 38 might be one of the most important verses in Scripture, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Beyond all of her questions and confusions and perplexity, there was a desire to humbly submit to what the Lord had called her to do.

Without this last attribute, we are liable to become arrogant or bitter when approaching God. God wants us to seek Him. He wants to show us he is a good God that can be trusted with our lives, that his plans are good. But God’s interruptions are not always going to make sense or be able to be explained in a way as to answer all our questions. So we need to be able to trust and submit. Without this, we will always be waiting for surety to decide for ourselves. Or we will be waiting for all the answers before we decided to lay down our objections or our hurt or our bitterness. God calls us to realize that he is bigger than us, wiser than us, and loves us. And therefore he can be trusted even when we can’t understand what He is up to.

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