This isn’t the way I planned it, God. Not at all. My child being born in a stable? This isn’t the way I thought it would be. A cave with sheep and donkeys, hay and straw? My wife giving birth with only the stars to hear her pain?
This isn’t at all what I imagined. No, I imagined family. I imagined grandmothers. I imagined neighbors clustered outside the door and friends standing at my side. I imagined the house erupting with the first cry of the infant. Slaps on the back. Loud laughter. Jubilation.
That’s how I thought it would be.
But now. Now look. Nazareth is five days’ journey away. And here we are in a . . . in a sheep pasture. Who will celebrate with us? The sheep? The shepherds? The stars?
This doesn’t seem right. What kind of husband am I? I provide no midwife to aid my wife. No bed to rest her back. Her pillow is a blanket from my donkey. My house for her is a shed of hay and straw.
The smell is bad, the animals are loud. Why, I even smell like a shepherd myself.
Did I miss something? Did I, God?
When you sent the angel and spoke of the son being born–this isn’t what I pictured. I envisioned Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the people gathered to watch. A pageant perhaps. A parade. A banquet at least. I mean, this is the Messiah!
Or, if not born in Jerusalem, how about Nazareth? Wouldn’t Nazareth have been better? At least there I have my house and my business. Out here, what do I have? A weary mule, a stack of firewood, and a pot of warm water. This is not the way I wanted it to be! This is not the way I wanted my son.
Oh my, I did it again. I did it again didn’t I, Father? I don’t mean to do that; it’s just that I forget. He’s not my son . . . he’s yours.
The child is yours. The plan is yours. The idea is yours. And forgive me for asking but . . . is this how God enters the world? The coming of the angel, I’ve accepted. The questions people asked about the pregnancy, I can tolerate. The trip to Bethlehem, fine. But why a birth in a stable, God?
Any minute now Mary will give birth. Not to a child, but to the Messiah. Not to an infant, but to God. That’s what the angel said. That’s what Mary believes. And, God, my God, that’s what I want to believe. But surely you can understand; it’s not easy. It seems so . . . bizarre.
I’m unaccustomed to such strangeness, God. I’m a carpenter. I make things fit. I square off the edges. I follow the plumb line. I measure twice before I cut once. Surprises are not the friend of a builder. I like to see the plan before I begin.
But this time I’m not the builder, am I? This time I’m a tool. A hammer in your grip. A nail between your fingers. A chisel in your hands. This project is yours, not mine.
I guess it’s foolish of me to question you. Forgive my struggling. Trust doesn’t come easy to me, God. But you never said it would be easy, did you?
One final thing, Father. The angel you sent? Any chance you could send another? If not an angel, maybe a person? I don’t know anyone around here and some company would be nice. Maybe the innkeeper or a traveler? Even a shepherd would do.
I wonder. Did Joseph ever pray such a prayer? Perhaps he did. Perhaps he didn’t.
But you probably have.
You’ve stood where Joseph stood. Caught between what God says and what makes sense. You’ve stared into a sky blackened with doubt. And you’ve asked what Joseph asked.
You’ve asked if you’re still on the right road. You’ve asked if you were supposed to turn left when you turned right. And you’ve asked if there is a plan behind this scheme. Things haven’t turned out like you thought they would.
Each of us knows what it’s like to search the night for light. Not outside a stable, but perhaps outside an emergency room. On the gravel of a roadside. On the manicured grass of a cemetery. We’ve asked our questions. We questioned God’s plan. And we’ve wondered why God does what he does.
No, the Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleadings of an honest heart, nor the last. And perhaps God didn’t answer every question for Joseph. But he answered the most important one. “Are you still with me, God?” And through the first cries of the God-child the answer came.
“Yes. Yes, Joseph. I’m with you.”
There are many questions that we won’t be able to answer. Many times we will muse, “I wonder . . .”
But in our wonderings, there is one question we never need to ask. Does God care? Do we matter to God? Does he still love his children?
Through the small face of the stable-born baby, he says yes.
Yes, your sins can be forgiven.
Yes, your name can be written in heaven.
Yes, death has been defeated.
Because God has entered the world.
Immanuel. God is with us.
from He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado, ©1993, W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.