One of the best-kept secrets of the Advent and Christmas seasons is that behind all the lights and music and revelry lies — for many people — a deep, lingering sadness.
This may come and go throughout the year, but intensifies as Christmas draws near. Not nostalgia, mind you; just sadness. And although the reasons vary widely, it often comes down to this: The happiness and togetherness associated with the season — EXPECTED during the season — accentuate, for so many, the brokenness of a life for which we had dreamed something very different.
The world assures us that we can follow our hearts and reach the stars if we simply believe in our dreams…
…but the proof is in the living, and life has revealed the emptiness of such promises.
Moreover, God’s Word gives us a much different story.
The Bible is full of people whose lives took unexpected turns that they might never have wished for — and rarely is that more acute than in the details surrounding the Incarnation.
Israel dreamed of a conquering King who would vanquish oppressors, ascend to the throne, and rule with peace and justice. Instead, the “suffering servant” depicted in Isaiah 53 turned out to be the long-awaited Messiah. His humble birth, kingdom, and the peace promised by the prophets, looked nothing like the Israelites’ visions of a Savior.
On a more intimate level, we have the story of Mary. Her dreams were, perhaps, small: marry a tradesman, raise a family, live humbly but contentedly. Gabriel’s announcement changed all of that…and yet, the honor of bearing the Son of God came with a price: that a sword would pierce Mary’s own soul.
In fact, the Gospels show us that Jesus spent much of His life challenging expectations.
What, then? Is God a crusher of dreams? Does He look at those who weep and tell them to buck up because life is full of disappointments?
If we know anything about Jesus, we know that isn’t true…and so there must be more to the story.
What we learn from Jesus’ birth, and everything that it entailed, is that the plans we make for our lives are rarely the same as God’s. More importantly, though: what He has planned for us is GOOD.
It may hurt; it may mean many years of waiting to understand; it may mean acknowledging that our idea of “good” is more limited than we ever realized. But through all of the weeping and the wondering and the waiting, He is there.
Immanuel: God with us. And one day, when we have shed our earthly bodies, and when sorrow and tears are past, we will be WITH HIM…and all the dreams we’ve ever had will be gloriously, beautifully fulfilled.