I don't know about you, but I am a planner! I don't like spontaneity, I don't like 'last minute' - I like to know what's happening and when it's going to happen. I like to have tomorrow's outfit hanging out ready the night before, I like to make plans to see friends at least two weeks in advance, I like 'to-do' lists and ticking them off, I like a daily diary so I know what I've got to do in a day. I like order, and I like well-laid plans.
Each year at this time, there is a different part of the Christmas story that stands out to me, and this year, it is that God isn't such a fan of my well-laid plans. I imagine some of the people in the Christmas story were planners, just like me. But, they all seem to find, as I often do, their plans are not necessarily God's plans - and sometimes when God calls to you, your plans have to change completely or get left behind.
Joseph had a plan. I imagine he was going to meet a nice girl, get married, settle down, have children, and live happily ever after. He met Mary, and it seemed like his plan was right on track. But then, Mary was pregnant, and Joseph made a new plan, he "did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly" (Matthew 2:19). I get the impression Joseph was a thoughtful man, who liked his plans and considered everything before he did anything. But Joseph was also a man of God. So, with his newly adapted plan in mind, he went to God. I imagine that his prayer had a lot of self-pity about broken plans, - what seemed to be - Mary's 'betrayal', and his broken heart. Joseph was probably expecting a response from God along the lines of 'Mary wasn't the right plan for you' or 'this child was a sign, this isn't the way I want you to go'. But, instead, God tells Joseph, possibly the most amazing 'new plan' he could ever imagine. He turns Joseph's plan to leave Mary, completely on its head and says "take Mary home as your wife...what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit". At this point, I think I would be wallowing in even more self-pity, I would be rebelling against God, I would be confused, I would be looking for a loop-hole...but Joseph is incredible, he amazes me actually at this point in the story. Because Joseph doesn't put up a fight, he doesn't complain or ask a hundred questions like I would, instead, he just "did what the Lord commanded". I aspire to be more like Joseph. To accept God's plans and changes to my plans without hesitation, without debate or compromise. To acknowledge that His way is the best way and my ideas, thoughts and plans are second to His wonderful ways.
Similarly, the shepherds...the shepherds in the Christmas story were at work. They were sat out in the field watching their sheep, probably wishing for an uneventful day at the office, hoping the night would pass quickly so they could clock-out and go home. That was the plan, and then the sky filled with angels who came to tell them God's plan. God wanted them to go to see the baby Jesus, he wanted them to leave where they were working and bear witness to the first ever Christmas Day. And, again, unbelievable as that message was, "they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby". They didn't question, as I think I would. They didn't hesitate, they had courage and faith. They didn't worry about leaving work, or the earthly repercussions of doing that, they just got up and hurried away and focused on the amazing plan God had for them. I aspire to be more like the shepherds, and not stress and worry about my earthly obligations and responsibilities so much that I prioritise them over God's plan. We get so caught up in our own little worlds, our earthly plans and responsibilities, that we put them first, and we consider them the most important thing. But next time when God calls to me, I want to jump with both feet, leave my plans behind and do what he calls me to do, not what I planned to do.
There are other people in the Christmas story who leave their plans behind to pursue God's plans. And this year, that's what I want to take away from Christmas. I want to be as brave and faithful as Joseph and the shepherds. I want to pray to God, and hear him tell me His plan, and have the strength to do what He calls me to do - even when it is the opposite of what I want to do. I want to jump up immediately when He speaks to me and do what He has planned for me - even when it means leaving my worldly plans and responsibilities behind. I want to have the kind of faith that allows me to change my plans, to leave them and trust in God's better plan for me. This is my prayer this Christmas. I pray for the faith and loyalty of Joseph, I pray for the bravery and courage of the shepherds, and I pray that through having these qualities, God will show me His plan for my life, which will undoubtedly be amazing, incredible and life-changing. Because even my best laid plans cannot compare to His awesome path for my life, and no matter how hard I try to organise my life, or follow my daily entries in my diary, if God calls me another way one day, I know through faith that that will be the BEST plan for me. And no matter how crazy or unbelievable or incredibly different to my plan it may be, I hope to be like Joseph and the shepherds, and let my plans go awry in God's name and for His will to be done in my life.