Ready or not Christmas is upon us. This Sunday is Advent 4 and we have but a few days remaining until Christmas. The Advent season has been a time of preparation, planning, getting ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus.
In the workforce today there are all kinds of planning seminars for those who are getting ready to retire. Experts say it is often the men who have the hardest time with retirement because they don’t know what they should do to keep busy and so it is said they need to put things in place for their retirement. (Or maybe take on a Priest-in-Charge part time position). But no matter how much we plan, things don’t always go the way we want them to. The old adage the best laid plans of mice and men often comes into play. Our plans, even with the best of intentions don’t always work out the way we want them to! Or maybe more accurately the way we envisioned them to turn out!
Our readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent tell of a man and a woman of faith whose plans didn’t go as they would have envisioned either, for their plans were not God’s plans!
First there was David. It was around 995 B.C and we see David as a really ambitious sort of fellow. And does he have big plans! He has just built himself one grand palace. Everyone is talking about the mansion built over in mortgage heights. He has won enough battles with the neighbours that they were afraid of his power. He has brought all the factions of Israel together. The land controlled by Israel was growing and David has all the power and wealth a man could ever dream of. But then he looks around and sees that although he is living in this extremely luxurious home, the Arc of the Covenant, the place where God is present, rests in a tent.
David decides it is time to build a home for God. In many ways it seems like the logical thing to do! However in our reading from the Book of Samuel we hear God say: “No. I don’t think so!”
You see David had good intentions. He had what most would see as a very wonderful plan to build this huge cathedral in the desert. God was indeed part of David’s plan. We have to say: So what seems to be the problem here? It sounds like a great plan! It is interesting that God will give Salomon, David’s son, the go ahead later on to build the temple but for David, the answer was to remain NO! No Temple!
God would not be part of David’s plan but instead, insisted that David was to be part of God’s plan. David was not to build a home for God … but instead God would build a house for David! However, it was not to be a house made of brick and mortar but a dynasty, a family line from which would come the saviour!!! David’s plans had centred on David’s interests. God’s plan was for all humanity, which included David.
Today we hear the words “build my church”. We spend time and effort and money on bricks and mortar, only to hear God say: No, no I mean build my church … You know, the body of Christ, the People … its not the building! We still think God is interested in the house where we can meet him, rather than the desire to build up the people whom he wants to be in relationship with. The building is where the people of God gather when there isn’t a pandemic.
Then in our story of the Annunciation. we jump ahead 1000 years and see again a story of God saying no to the plans of a young girl. As a young teenager, Mary no doubt also had a plan for her life. As was common in the first century Palestine, she was to marry young. She was engaged to this young carpenter. No doubt she would have all the hopes and dreams of a young woman: to live in a middle class home; to live a quiet life with children; to have good health; economic security; a little comfort; and God was no doubt in her plans. As a devout Jew girl she would make sacrifice, following all the rules set forth from the scriptures: giving her tithe, allowing God to be part of her life.
But the remarkable appearance of the angel Gabriel, changed everything! I often use a phrase: all things are subject to change or cancellation without further notice and God on this day said there was a change to her plans!
No longer would it be Mary’s plan for her life but rather God had a more wonderful plan: to carry the Son Of God.
No longer was God just a part of Mary’s plan. Mary was to be a very important part of God’s plan for all mankind.
God’s plan was much more wonderful and spectacular. For all generations to come would call her blessed and she would be placed in a category above most: for she was highly favoured.
Mary listened and heard God’s voice. She was willing to go along and be part of God’s plan with the immortal words, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
In our own lives we make plans for Christmas, we make plans for our families, for ourselves. What we want; what we desire, what we hope for, and for many of us, those plans include God.
There is nothing wrong with making plans and in fact we need to be planning and looking to the future. But do our plans include God or are we part of God’s plan?
The Christmas message tells us that in our lives it doesn’t have to be business as usual, things can be different. I challenge you this Christmas season to seek out what is God’s plan for you.
This Christmas season let us be open to what God has for us, what God’s plan for our life might be. To listen and hear what he wants us to do: as individuals, as a family, as a faith community.
Someone once said: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. Because our greatest need is forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.”
God’s greatest plan for our life is to live in relationship with him; for us to accept him into our hearts. We do indeed have a choice as we make our plans for the future. We can give him a little part of our lives, maybe the Sunday morning part or we can say as Mary: “Let it be to me according to your word” and give him our all in all.
What will it mean to say we will follow God’s plan for our life? What will it look like? We don’t really know. Just as David didn’t know, and Mary didn’t know. We can’t exactly plan for it. All we can do is be open to our Lord; to seek Him, to hear His voice and listen to His prompting and then follow Him! Where ever he might lead us!