After five years of helping lead the children’s Christmas pageant, I’ve seen a few miscues, heard a few mispronounced words that make a person fall out of her seat laughing, and endured a few chaotic rehearsals that rival The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Perhaps my favorite incident was when the angels forgot to appear. And no one noticed until it was time for the first angel solo. Then they came, a procession of their own, albeit a bit rushed and without the grace you’d expect from heavenly beings. 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. The unfolding of God’s earthly incoming came with no calls of “cut” or “take thirty-six.” It came and went with all the glitches a sovereign God had planned.
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.”
The innkeeper didn’t get a do-over, saying, “I should have given that man and woman a room, but she looked too poor to be carrying 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 those the wise men would later bring.
And jealous King Herod, the man who perhaps most needed a second chance, didn’t get one.
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? Herod killed a city’s entire baby boy population because those wise men spilled the beans that a new king had been born. 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. He transcends a darkness that has claimed victory by sending His Son who is victory.
When things unscripted happen, cling to author and perfecter of your faith. Look beyond the miscues and the missing angels to see the God who has promised never to leave or forsake.