Several years ago my youngest daughter rode with me to do some errands. As we pulled out of a parking lot she asked me to do something. She knew the story of Jesus' birth, but she wanted to hear more, and she wanted me to tell her.
I began with the familiar lines of Luke, and I realized as I looked into her intense little face she wanted more. She joins me in her love of history and detail, and so I talked to her about the incredible orchestration of God.
When we hear these famous, familiar words of Luke and Matthew we tend to see everything in one long scene. Events and days are fast-forwarded or put in slow motion depending on our emphasis. I found my emphasis changing as I talked with her.
After Gabriel's message to Mary and during her visit to Elizabeth, Caesar Augustus was making the decision to take a census of the world the Roman Empire ruled. What was the purpose of sending everyone to their own towns? What reason did Augustus have to command everyone to return to their own city? Did he want the great Roman roads to be used; was he trying to boost the economy? For whatever reason, he sends riders across his domain to inform everyone to register. Little did he know that in his self-absorbed, power-hungry, inconvenient decree was used by the Most High to help fulfill a prophecy given by a Hebrew prophet hundreds of years before (Micah 5:2). The Messiah of the Jews (and the world) would be born in Bethlehem.
When Mary returns home to tell Joseph her news, magi from the east are studying a strange occurrence in the night sky. They had been watching this star for almost two years. They convene, discuss, plan, and pack their caravan for a long journey that most likely will cover over a thousand miles. Caravan camels can travel fifteen to twenty miles a day, and so this journey will require at least two months travel time. Beginning their sojourn across continents, the magi proceed in accordance with the star's coordinates.
I can see the camels plodding along during the day, the magi swaying on their backs. But at night around the fire scrolls would unroll, and instruments would be drawn from their leather packs. The magi would measure, note, calculate, and collaborate to assure their direction and destination. Educated and immersed in the mystical and celestial this group was quite baffled by this new phenomena in the sky. They set out to find a king who had not yet been born. The Most High assures their routes
The orchestration of God was building. He was directing and moving everything and everyone into their proper places for the birth of his Son. Nothing is beyond his reach or his ability to control.
As I explained all of this to my daughter I could see the amazement in her face. I think the story of Jesus' birth changed for her yesterday.
I changed in the telling.
The wings of this stage that we have been discussing reach far and wide. There is a depth and breadth in them that I just can't quite comprehend. The orchestration of God astounds me.
Even now, I wonder what pieces of the orchestration of my life is he moving? What events and people are being set into place so that his plan will be fulfilled? What role do I play in others' lives? When the Spirit asks me do do something, to call someone, to write someone, to talk with someone what is the Almighty setting in motion?
May God teach us to trust his orchestration. May God show and lead us to the people who want to hear more. And may he give us the courage and the wisdom to tell the story and be changed.