I love to be prepared. I love starting the day with a clear schedule and a clear idea of what I need to pack. I love being at the playground with my kids and one runs up and says “Did you bring that completely nonessential item that I asked you about three days ago?” And then I whip it out of my pocket, and they give me a giant hug and tell me I am the best mom ever. Just kidding, that’s never happened, but I do wish that I could be prepared for anything life throws at me.
And I wish that in life I could always see what people want from me, and what’s ahead, and what I need to bring, but the fact is, we can never be fully prepared. We can make lists, we can read all the right books, and we can consult all the experts, but sometimes God has other plans. And those other plans are always good, and always exactly what we need, just not always what we prepared for.
The second week of Advent is about preparation: preparing our hearts for the birth of the savior of the world. But it can also be about considering the preparation of a God who orchestrated the most celebrated birth in the history of the world. Jesus was born in a manger, in a town he didn’t live in, to an unwed virgin woman; no human could have planned that out. And Mary and Joseph did not plan that out. Mary and Joseph were not prepared for Jesus’ birth, but God was. And God had planned for them to go on a trip, and for Mary to go into labor, and for there to be no space in the inn.
And I can’t even imagine being in Mary’s shoes. How frustrated would you be with these circumstances? You’re miles from home, giving birth in a place where animals live, no baby equipment around, your child’s first nap is in a trough that animals eat out of. None of it felt comfortable, none of it felt optimal, and none of it felt in control. But all of it was planned, and prepared by a God who loves Mary and Joseph more than anyone.
And the only way Mary and Joseph prepared for all of this was by surrendering what felt out of control to the God they knew had it under control. They prepared by trusting that someone else had prepared. After the angel of the Lord visited Mary and explained how this would all go down, she might have been freaked, but she responded by trusting in the Lord and his plans.
“Mary responded ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” Luke 1:38
That probably would not have been my response. She didn’t obsess over the preparation she just trusted that what He wanted was necessary and good and would come to pass. And then she tells her fiancé and he quietly considers to himself breaking off the engagement to Mary in order to spare everyone the shame. An angel visits him, and his response is much the same as Mary’s.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife…” Matthew 1:24
He didn’t question it; he just followed the commands of the Lord.
I think sometimes we think well that’s Mary and Joseph; God must have chosen them because they were super spiritual and trusting. But I think they were just prepared to be unprepared for what God was calling them to do, and they were prepared to be okay with that.
A lot of what stops me from doing what God asks of me is the thought that I am not good enough for what he’s asking. And that is simply not trusting that God has prepared me for this moment all along. When we can trust that God has prepared us for what he’s calling us to do, then all we have to do is say yes. And the only way to trust God is to know Him, and to know His purposes.
We need to talk to Him. We need to pray God’s will be done. Like Mary, we need to tell the God who has planned our lives that we’re all in, and we’re ready. We’re ready to jump into what he’s called us to, and we’re going to trust Him. And when we talk to Him we need to ask Him to show us the opportunities he has prepared for us. We need to ask, and we need to listen.
“”Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught…” Colossians 2:7a
We also can prepare for the plans he has for us by studying his word on a daily basis. In order to be prepared to step into his plans we need to be strong. We need to be nourished by God to follow through on what he’s called. And we need to draw our nourishment from the Lord because the enemy is ready to strike us down at every turn. If we are not continually coming back to Jesus to be filled up, we can’t possibly be prepared for the task he is calling us to.
He has prepared us for a time when we would be unprepared, so that only He could have the glory. He prepared a crazy plan for Mary and Joseph to birth his son Jesus in order that no one could say it was man. No one was prepared except for God, and he’s the only one who needs to be prepared.
He’s the only one who needs to know exactly what we need and when we need it, and he’s the only one I would want to know those things. He loves us so much that he sent his only son to die for us; that’s the God I want preparing my life. And that’s the God I want to trust when I’m not prepared. He knows whats before and behind us, and he knows the greater plans laid out for the good of us, and everyone around us. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, sometimes it’s not optimal, and sometimes it feels out of control. but we can rest and relax with the knowledge that the God who loves us has prepared it all.