They had the best of plans. At least, given the circumstances. They had prepared a special place. Joseph had carefully smoothed the wood of the cradle while Mary sewed soft blankets. They talked about where the birth would happen and who would be with them. They dreamed of how this most special of infants would enter the world.
Then, of course, everything changed. They had never had a lot of control over the situation, but suddenly they had none. Things seemed orchestrated perfectly against them: forced to travel in the final stages of pregnancy, away from home and loved ones, lost among throngs of people, and even turned away from the comforts of rest in a crowded inn.
What fears and shame must have risen in their hearts? Joseph, unable to provide even decent shelter for his wife and firstborn, not to mention that firstborn was God’s son. Mary, helpless and exposed in her labor, in a strange place surrounded by strangers.
Interesting, how even the illusion of control was taken away. Interesting how they were forced to lay down their small plans and simply receive what came to them. Denied their preparations, denied their traditions and people and safe spaces, denied control, they were helpless. They simply had to receive. And into that dust and chaos God came with blood and wailing, and they had to catch him. They had to wrap him up with the little they could find and lay him in the only place available. And there he lay among them, in a manger, and there was nothing they could do about it. But it was enough, because God had come, and sometimes when we are least in control, we experience him the most.
This was no accident. This humble space stripped away illusions, exposed the need and weakness. Sure, God could have provided a rich palace for his birth, but it all would have been rags for the Son of God stepping from heaven to be among us. From the very beginning, this was all we had to offer. It has never been about what we could do for God. He lays us bare so we can receive him.
I long to be like Mary, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). To her, it was all treasure.
In your weakness, in your loneliness, in your humble lack of control this Christmas, may God enter in, and may you receive him. May it all be treasure.