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Only God Knows

Thanks to my husband, we have a tradition in the Lexin household of listening to soul music while we decorate for Christmas.  It is a lively, unconventional soundtrack that includes artists like Clarence Carter, Otis Redding, and James Brown.  One of James Brown's songs is echoing in my mind this year with even more frequency: Let's Make Christmas Mean Something this Year.  In the song, James Brown muses about thankfulness and nostalgia between the repetitive chorus, "let's make this Christmas mean something this year!"  As much as I can get behind that chorus, there is another line a couple of minutes in, that really has my attention, "only God knows how Christmas is gonna look."

Only God knows…truer words were never set to music!  The pandemic news is grim as we head into the Christmas season creating uncertainty about what we can afford to give this year, who we can share our table with, and even what groceries we will be able to find.  If you have been decorating or baking or watching Christmas movies ahead of your usual schedule, you are not alone, largely because we are all in tune with the reality of that lyric, "only God knows how Christmas is gonna look!"

Of course, there is a deeper truth to that statement as well.  From the very beginning there has been an unpredictable nature to Christmas.  Everything about pinning the hopes of the world on a vulnerable infant, born into poverty and scandal, is unusual.  Can you imagine what the conversation would have been between world leaders or military generals, or even parents, if God suggested his salvation plan in some kind of brainstorming session?  How could the little guy change anything?  How long would we need to wait for the military victory?  How can we convince anyone to follow someone with no reputation?  How could you subject your own child to that life?  Only God knows.

It is such an unlikely story that it still amazes me!  I think about the dialogue Luke records between Mary and the angel as he tells her about her part in God's plan.  Mary asks, "how?"  I imagine her question is humble and sweet, though I know that when I ask God "how," it is typically with a bit of an attitude, often loaded with doubt, and sometimes even challenging whether God should be doing that at all.  The angel answers Mary's question by explaining a few of the details, and adds
"For with God nothing will be impossible."
Luke 1:37 (RSV)

Only God knows what we really need and who is capable of curing what ails us.  And though our challenges both globally and personally seem insurmountable, with God nothing will be impossible.  That is why only God knows; the rest of us have limited resources and imaginations.  We are bound by our natural abilities and what already exists, but God knows no boundaries and is supernatural in every way--even able to speak into existence what is not yet there.  Thankfully, God is not limited by my doubt, my fear, or my desire to control the plan.  I just have to agree to letting God do his thing.  Mary's conversation with the angel ends with her words of surrender
"let it be to me according to your word."
Luke 1:38 (RSV)

In this season of searching for cures to a virus, to racism, to loneliness, anxiety and grief, we can still choose to seek first the Kingdom of God.  As we long to gather close those we love, we can ensure Jesus is on the guestlist.  And even in the awareness of our own need this year, we are still able to help others.  In these ways, we can do our best to join James Brown in his chorus to make Christmas "mean something" this year.  However, despite every well-planned effort and well-meaning gesture, we will still be unable to predict how Christmas will look.  In that, I will surrender (or try to) and say along with Mary, "let it be."

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