Have you ever felt like things were falling apart? Maybe the glass cooktop on your stove is cracked because someone dropped your favorite mug on it. The repair is costly, so now black electrical tape hides the damage. You look around and the wallpaper is worn and window treatments are a bit tattered. There’s a gouge in your wood floor. Things are falling apart inside the house. So, you go outside for some fresh air. You pick up a rake and all you can find is a kids’ plastic beach shovel. So, you kneel down and scrape the leaves that are lodged in the flowerbed against the house. You notice that the trim around your windows is rotting. It’s squishy. Boy, things are falling apart…inside and out. You decide to head back in and sit down. You need a cup of coffee…but not in your favorite mug, of course. Someone broke that. So, you get up. You get up. You try to get up…is it your knees or your back? Was it the run you took a week ago or is it arthritis? You’re falling apart. You’re too young to fall apart! Have you ever felt like you were falling apart?
You know what you need? A vacation. So, after considerable effort to coordinate everybody’s schedule, you make the arrangements, but someone pulls out and the plans fall apart. Have you ever felt like things were falling apart? The house, your body, your plans. Maybe your kids…they’re falling apart. Teens making bad choices. Teens with attitude. Maybe it’s not your teens, but it’s your toddlers taking tantrums. Not long ago I brought the three boys to Kmart to fill our Operation Christmas Shoebox. Kmart rattles my nerves. Let’s just say that Timmy, our youngest, isn’t missions-minded quite yet. I dragged him through the store for 25 minutes as he kicked and screamed, with his pudgy little fingers wrapped around my ankles. He wanted the toys in the box. Jack, our oldest said, ‘Mom, this is very stressful.’ Tim was falling apart. And I was about to.
Do you know what it’s like when things are falling apart around you? Maybe it’s a relationship you’re in. It’s crumbling. Or your job is overwhelming.
But what if I told you that sometimes, when things are falling apart, they’re falling into place. When things are out of line, they’re actually lining up. When life is out of control, it’s under control. When things are falling apart, they’re falling into place.
When we read the circumstances surrounding the Christmas story, it seems as though everything is falling apart.
Mary’s pregnant—at least in her second trimester—very likely her third. They’re going to Bethlehem, their place of origin, to register for the census. They must be counted for tax purposes. It’s a three-day journey from Nazareth in the north. A 70-mile trek. I imagine it took this couple a few extra days to get to Bethlehem. They’re going to Bethlehem because they are loyal citizens. And loyal citizens must register when Caesar says register.
It might have felt as though things were falling apart, but God’s plan was falling into place. The prophets said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And the arduous trek to Bethlehem was fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah. Even when things are falling apart, God’s plan is falling into place.
For the most part, I imagine the trip was a major headache. It’s true…Mary would get out of that small town, Nazareth. People were talking….she was pregnant. Mary needed to get away. In fact, she spent her first trimester away from Nazareth when she stayed at her relative Elizabeth’s house in the hill country of Judea. Going to Bethlehem would protect her from those disapproving stares and the snickers. But, this kind of move was a nuisance. Things might have seemed like they were falling apart. A young woman….pregnant…away from home.
The journey to Bethlehem was fraught with danger. Scorching sun beating down during the daylight hours and robbers lurking along country roads. When night fell, travel ceased. The inns in those days weren’t like the Bed & Breakfasts of today. Don’t picture Kennebunkport’s White Barn Inn or the Hob Knob in Edgartown. Picture a boarding house in the wild, wild west. Inns in those days were often used as lodging for the down and out, for the undesirables. Joseph wouldn’t want to take his pregnant bride to a place where she could be harmed. I wonder if they ever thought that things were falling apart.
Mary gives birth to her baby in a crude, outdoor nursery and cradles him in a feeding trough. The stars and the animals are witnesses. Did Mary and Joseph ever feel like things were falling apart?
But God’s plan was falling into place.
I would have been frightened when the dirty, stinky shepherds, who were shunned by society, raced to the feeding trough, shouting and screaming. Did Mary whisk the baby into the safety of her arms and huddle him close to her heart? Did Joseph place himself in front of his wife and the baby Jesus in a protective posture?
Imagine holding your newborn in the hospital when all of the sudden a troop of vagabonds storm through the door. They want a good look at your baby. You might think that things are falling apart. But God’s plan was falling into place. He was bringing a king into the world. The king. And the king takes falling apart people and puts them back into place. God takes the falling apart things in our lives and uses them to put His good plan into place.
Does it feel like things are falling apart? Maybe in the messiness, God’s plan is falling into place.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while [a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”