What a week of worship and service it has been. My soul has been filled up by all that has transpired over the last 3 or 4 days. First, over 330 parents, grandparents and church members supported over 80 dancers who descended on our campus for the Nutcracker performance on Friday night where our Studio 150 ministry was able to share the joy of this Advent season through dance. And then on Sunday, we worshipped together as one church through a blended service led by both our contemporary band and our traditional choir, and then we went out and served together. You can say we didn’t just “go to church” this Sunday, but we “were the church” this Sunday. And last but not least, we gathered that night in the courtyard under a beautiful night sky and found hope together through the lighting of candles, worship, spoken word, and dancing.
As I processed all that I had the privilege to participate in this weekend, I thought about the plans that we make and the plans that God makes.
Our almost 7-year-old, Emmaline is very curious about families these days and what makes up a family. We have recently had conversations with her about adoption and fostering both because of my work with the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and because we recently visited our cousins who are foster parents. When Emmaline wants to know why some little kids don’t have parents it is one of those holy and sensitive moments where you really want to say the right thing as a parent. We are always cognizant that our judgments can become our children’s judgments, so we try to answer these deep philosophical questions (that we are never trained to answer, I might add) with a lot of grace. I usually say something like this. “Most of the time, grown-ups are excited and ready to become parents, but every once in a while, people have children and they really are not ready to be parents. And so other parents have to step in until they are ready.”
In one of these recent conversations where she had just met her second cousin who is a foster child, she just could not understand where her “real” parents were. We walked through the definition again and a little light bulb went on in her eyes.
“Oh I get it,” she said. “Mary and Joseph weren’t ready to be parents either, but they decided to trust God and love Jesus anyway!”
Wow, kid! Okay, well done. Not where I was going with this conversation, but yes, you really did just nail the meaning of Christmas! I am always glad when I listen to her small, yet wise voice.
And so, I have been pondering that thought over these last few days. I have thought about how my plans aren’t always God’s plans and wondering back to how I respond when I realize that there is a difference.
In this third week of Advent, I encourage you to think about the well-laid plans of your life and how, if you are like me, the planning process brings you joy. But then, I know we can all recall a time or many times when our plans were turned upside down and when we finally glimpse God’s plans, how much more of life we still are learning to embrace.
I pray that your Advent season gives you moments not only to recognize the times when your plans were different, but also when they were aligned. You see, I didn’t always want to be a pastor, but the educational journey to get here has been a blessing. At one point in my life, Ryan and I were planning to be missionaries in someplace very different from here, but God helped me grow deep roots where I was planted and taught me about being a missionary in my own, everyday life. Maybe you can remember a time too when your plans were different from God’s plans and how you chose to trust God anyway. Maybe Emmaline is right, maybe following Jesus is really about trusting God with plans very different from our own and learning to love and be loved in the process.