The angels forgot to appear—or at least, they weren’t sent down the aisle for the Christmas pageant when all the children processed down in the beginning. Sitting at the piano, I didn’t notice. And neither did the director, until it was time for the first angel solo. “Where are the angels?” came the cry.
And then they came, a procession of their own, albeit a bit rushed and without the grace you’d expect from heavenly beings.
Such is the joy of children acting out the Christmas story. One year it was Mary who didn’t process.
Didn’t we just practice twenty-four hours ago? How can four second grade girls in angel costumes hang out at the back of the sanctuary and no one notices . . .?
There was no rehearsal for the first noel. It came and went with all the glitches a sovereign God had planned. The innkeeper didn’t get a do-over, “Oops, I should have given that man and woman a room, but I didn’t know she was caring the Savior of the world.” The shepherds who ran in from their fields with the smell of sheep crusted on their clothes didn’t get to go back and wash-up, didn’t get to grab some gifts to match the wise men. Joseph didn’t get to rewind his life a year, thinking, “this time I won’t be such a jerk when Mary tells me and I won’t need an angel to convince me because I’ll have more faith.”
Matthew writes, “This is how the birth of Jesus came about . . .” A beautiful passive sentence that makes the writer in me cringe and yet perfectly highlights God’s sovereignty. This—and exactly this way—is how the birth of Jesus came about—by a force beyond human control. It happened because God happened it to happen in a specific way.
Any imperfections we might find in this story are not accidents. Mary’s too young to have the Christ child. It’s not fair they have to travel to Bethlehem so late in her pregnancy and get shut out of reasonable accommodations. Shepherds aren’t high enough up the social chain to receive the first tidings of Christ’s birth. And Herod certainly shouldn’t have been told by the wise men about the King’s birth. I mean, why did they let that slip? Are they idiots not to understand that Herod would be jealous and thus kill a city’s entire baby boy population? That certainly wouldn’t have happened in my script.
Maybe there are things happening in your script that you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. We all have uninvited circumstances. Glitches, from our perspective.
Step back from your life a moment. Does God ever lose control and need a do-over? Part of us would like to think yes—because then the awful things that happen would be comprehensible.
But the answer is no, a resounding and unchallenged no. And there is comfort here in the hands of a sovereign God who doesn’t tell us why things happen, but instead shows up in the Flesh to endure with us. More than endure. Christ transcends with grace and mercy a darkness that has claimed victory.