Our honeymoon was months in the making.
We had shiny, slick paper brochures and Pinterest boards. We had circled must-see spots on crinkly, weathered maps. We knew just what we wanted to see, and when, and how long we wanted to stay there.
Finally, the day of our departure arrived. Trevor and I packed the car with our sleeping bags and tent and clothing, filled it with clothes and food and our big plans.
And you know? Lots of things happened that were... unexpected. Surprises, if you will.
The rental car broke down outside of Salt Lake City and we had to switch vehicles- which meant a trip into the city we hadn't planned and a delay that wasn't part of our schedule. We'd expected to camp at the Grand Canyon, but a snowstorm made that impossible and we had to find a hotel at the last minute. We'd allotted too much time for some places, and not enough time for other places.
In spite of all of our planning, surprises still popped up.
Some of my favorite memories from that trip are the things that I never could have planned for- like the community fish fry we stumbled across in Oregon, or the falling leaves and gentle sound of the ocean at Humbug Mountain Campground (which was not our first choice, but ended up being better than the campground we'd planned on). The last few days of our trip were spent in a beautiful yurt in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas- which was an impulse stop when we realized we had more time than we'd planned.
The things we didn't plan for, the things we didn't expect, were even better than we could have imagined.
I wonder if Mary felt the same way about her change of plans.
Unlike our little lark to Arkansas during our honeymoon, Mary's plans were changed in a way that affected the entire trajectory of her life.
Unexpected pregnancies do that.
As someone who has never had an unexpected pregnancy (or a pregnancy at all, thank you subfertility), I do not know what that would feel like, or the thoughts that would run through your mind.
From all of Scripture, for that matter, we don't really see Mary freaking out about the upcoming birth of Jesus- just that she would do as the Lord said.
I plan to ask her when I meet her someday, but I can't help but wonder if, while she was all, "I am the handmaid of the Lord," (Luke 1:38) internally her mind was running through all the possible scenarios that this news would bring.
My betrothed will divorce me
My parents will be ashamed-- will they kick me out?
The rabbis will use me as a cautionary tale to other young women
My friends will stop talking to me
I'll have no way to make a living, and I'll live on the street, destitute...
... all things that could have been plaguing Mary's mind.
Or maybe she wasn't internally freaking out. Maybe she was, as she seems in the Bible, totally cool as a cucumber about the whole thing. But I doubt it a little. I think it seemed pretty hopeless.
Jesus was expected for a very long time, but he arrived in a very unexpected way.
The people of Israel had been waiting for four hundred years for the promised Messiah- someone they thought would come with political power to remove the Romans from Jerusalem.
And now this Messiah was coming... in the form of a baby born to a poor, uninfluential woman. It just didn't make sense.
That wasn't part of the plan.
In fact, the entirety of Jesus's life didn't seem to make much sense. Instead of crashing through the Roman government, Jesus spoke of respecting leaders. Instead of climbing the social ladder to become influential, Jesus focused much of his time on the poor and diseased, and spent his days surrounded by a group of twelve men, most of whom were uneducated fishermen.
And just when things were heating up and Jesus was making waves in the community, he upped and was crucified. Nothing puts a damper on a revolution like the leader being killed, especially in an excruciating, very public way. It probably looked very hopeless.
Jesus didn't come to fulfill our expectations.
In the eyes of humanity, he was unplanned, right from the start.
But oh, how limited we are. We could not have possibly imagined what God's plans looked like.
Instead of a political revolution, God brought everlasting peace.
Instead of temporary rescue for the Jewish people, God brought eternal salvation for all mankind.
Instead of bringing us what we wanted, God brought us more than we could have imagined.
In situations that seem hopeless, we know that we probably don't have the whole story.
Can we even imagine the goodness, the glory, the mercy of God? If Mary's expectations for her life had been met, where would we be now? If the Israelites had been given the Messiah they planned for, what would our world be?
This Advent season may look very different than you expected. Maybe you're facing an empty bank account, a house empty except for the moving boxes, a still-empty womb, an empty chair at the dining room table. Maybe it's filled with chaos and family conflict, health issues, stress.
The weight of all the unfulfilled expectations and disappointments can feel hopeless.
Your Advent season might feel very unplanned, very unexpected.
This Advent, it's time to lean in to the unexpected, the surprises, the unplanned.
We can have hope, knowing that God's plans are much better than our own. And if we don't find the speckled blessings, the ones we weren't looking for, we might just miss the miracle.
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