Nothing is an Accident
DECEMBER 8, 2021
Nothing is an accident at Christmas and in our lives.
God hardly ever acts in a vacuum. He almost always prepares before he acts, before he leads, and before he calls us. The writer of Hebrews, before he expounds on the profound truths surrounding Christ, opens with these words: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
If you like to read mystery novels—and I do—you know that a good mystery writer puts hints throughout the story pointing to the bad guy. So when you get to the end of the novel, and you know the whole story, you can say, “Oh, yes, I should have known.”
Christmas is like that.
God prepared everything beforehand. He brought the Romans, the Greeks, and the Jews together, preparing their histories so that when Christ was born, he was born at precisely the right moment. If Jesus had been born just sixty years before or after, you would have never known his name.
God prepared thought forms so that when Jesus was born, everybody would understand. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. . .” (John 1:1, 14). The Greek word for “word” was one with which both Jews and Greeks were familiar. The Jews associated it with the “creative wisdom” of God and the Greeks with their philosophy as the “glue” that held the world together. The Romans (with their military prowess) conquered the entire Western World, creating a common coinage, a common language, and a road system that made the spread of the story of Jesus possible. Even the idea of sacrifice had been a part of every culture in the entire world—“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22)—developed completely apart from each culture. Add to that the prophecies were quite clear about the coming Messiah, and they were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
You begin to see a pattern. Christmas didn’t just happen. God prepared for Christmas from the very beginning, putting the puzzle pieces together very slowly, carefully, and intentionally.
Knowing how God worked in preparing for the single most important event in all of human history suggests that it’s the way God works everywhere in general and the way he works in our lives in particular. That’s why it’s important to know our “stories.” In them, we find God’s work and preparation in our lives from the day we were born. Today didn’t just happen. Today is the result of the days that have gone on before—the people we’ve known, the experiences (both good and bad) we’ve had, the joys we’ve encountered, and the tears we’ve shed. And more important than preparation is the awareness that every bit of that was overseen by a sovereign and good God who is good all the time, even when it doesn’t feel that way. It means our lives have meaning and purpose. It means we are valuable and loved. “All things” really do “work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). You can trust him because he prepared for you to be his own and to trust him.
That is the way God works.
And then, at Christmas, when God acted, he confirmed his action. Angels are everywhere in the Christmas texts. Elizabeth was pregnant with John when she was too old to get pregnant . . . way too old. Wise men from other cultures showed when there was no reason for them to have left their own countries. There was the star in the East, and even Herod knew that something was up. What was going on? God was saying, “It’s me! It’s really me!”
That is why there is so much joy.
A physician friend once called and told me that he no longer believed. “Well,” he said, “I do believe, but sometimes I can’t get it into my heart.” I told him, “Of course you have trouble believing. That’s why Christ died for you. He died for your unbelief, too.” And then I added, “If you don’t believe, why in the world call me? Why are you still struggling? Where do you think you got this stuff? You simply couldn’t make this up.” My friend laughed and said, “I hadn’t thought about that.”
What was I saying to him? Just what I said to you. God brought you to this point and prepared it all for you just the way he prepared for Christmas. And not only that, he confirmed it in your heart.
It is God’s way to prepare. It is also his way to confirm.
Christmas is a time of warm feelings. It’s about as close as unbelievers get to God and the truth. I often picture a woman putting the Christmas decorations away after Christmas. She pauses for a moment and thinks, What was that all about? There was something there, and I just don’t know what it was. I wish I could tell her, “It was God. He came. He wants you to know him, to let him forgive you, and to let him love you. That feeling you don’t understand is from him. For God’s sake, don’t miss it.”
But for those of us who know him, his confirmation is everywhere. There is confirmation in the crazy hope that those who died and won’t be with us this Christmas are celebrating a better Christmas in a better place. There is confirmation in the “lights” that come on at the Christmas Eve service when we’re reminded that it isn’t just a story, but a space/time historical event. The stable was real, the shepherds didn’t make it up, and the angels really announced his birth. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6) is reflected in the tears that come, for no reason, as we sing the carols and decorate the tree. It is reflected in the shared self-confirming knowledge Christians have that God is there, he is kind, and he doesn’t just love but defines himself as love. It is the present experience of knowing that we are forgiven, valuable, and acceptable because of Jesus.
Do you remember the guys on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24)? After the resurrection, they were walking on the road to Jerusalem . . . when this stranger showed. (I believe, by the way, that was Jesus’ sense of humor.) The stranger, of course, was Jesus. In his kind of supernatural disguise, Jesus taught the Scriptures that referred to himself. Then it hit them. It was Jesus. They said, “‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32). The “burning heart” was Jesus saying, “It’s me! It’s really me!”
While this Scrooge wrote this, something happened. It dawned on me that it was all true. May it dawn on you, too.