We all do some planning for Christmas, some of us do a lot more than others. There are those who write meticulous lists and tick off each completed task with a sense of satisfaction, there are those who scribble notes to themselves on the backs of envelopes and frantically search their coat pockets to make sure none have been missed, there are those who hold it all in their heads – they know exactly what has and has not been done and purchased- without having to write any of it down at all!
I probably fall between the first and second category, I like to make a list but I am not always organised enough to have it all in one place or to tick off each completed item. On the day itself there are only two fixed events ; church in the morning and the Doctor Who Christmas episode in the afternoon; all else revolves around these two fixed points in a more or less organised manner. Some families run the entire day to a rigid schedule, with dinner timed to the minute and strict time limits on present opening or after dinner napping.
Just over two thousand years ago a couple were planning their wedding, they had been formally betrothed and a day would have been set for them to come together as man and wife in the presence of family and friends in their community. their plans were interrupted when the bride to be was found to be pregnant and Caesar Augustus decided to take a census of all the world. The wedding was brought forward and the couple headed off for Bethlehem, their families no doubt hoping that, by the time they returned with a baby, the neighbours’ arithmetic would not be too accurate.
Of course, the arrival of this baby may not have been planned by his parents but in fact this child had been planned for so long and with such care that the schedule for his arrival makes the most careful list maker look last minute and slapdash in comparison. God didn’t wake up one morning and decide to have a son, the incarnation was not an idea sketched on the back of an envelope, the coming of Jesus had been planned from the beginning, when the Word spoke creation into being he already knew at what point in history he was going to become flesh and dwell amongst us. Throughout the Old Testament the coming of Jesus and his saving work, revealing the Father to us and reconciling us to the Father on the cross, are foretold and foreshadowed. When Abraham in faith offers up his only Son, God provides the sacrifice; when Joseph is falsely accused and imprisoned, God vindicates him and raises him up so that he can save his people; when Benjamin is threatened with imprisonment, Judah steps in to take the punishment on himself; when a king is needed for Israel, Samuel is guided to anoint a humble shepherd boy; when the people pass out of Egypt, the blood of the Lamb protects them from the visitation of the Angel of Death.
Isaiah, writing 700 years before the event, proclaims the birth of the incarnate Jesus
“The people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the shadows a light has dawned…for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”