Some people like to make plans and others more or less take things as they happen. Those who plan may not necessarily want to be in charge, they just don’t like being left in the dark and surprised by what happens. For the others, “whatever” seems to be their life motto. I have no hard evidence for this; it’s just a personal observation. I’m a planner and it’s hard for me to wander through my days without a clear goal and a way to achieve it. “Whatever” just won’t do.

At least two people in the Christmas story thought they had all their plans made. Joseph and Mary had done everything to keep the Jewish traditions held by their people. They were anticipating life together as husband and wife and parents to the children God would give them. Then God gave them a child and it didn’t fit their plan—at all. The plan was so unbelievable that the angel Gabriel was sent to explain it. “Mary, you’re going to become pregnant even before you begin living with Joseph and he won’t be the father. And Joseph, put your plans aside. Things are happening according to God’s plan now. You have been chosen to watch over this special child whose name will be Jeshua or Jesus, meaning The Lord is Salvation, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Change seems to have been a challenge for Joseph. In fact, he was ready to derail the whole plan. Hearing that Mary was expecting, Matthew tells us that Joseph “desired to put her away secretly.” (1:19) God’s plan for Joseph was “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (v.20) Joseph laid aside his plans and obeyed. How do we respond when God takes control of our well-made plans?

Mary had plans as well. Anticipating motherhood after her marriage to Joseph, she may have already chosen a name for her first baby. Perhaps it was Eli or Jacob after one of the grandfathers or even Joe, Jr. But God had other plans. And what about that trip to cousin Elizabeth’s? Surely that wasn’t part of her original plan either. In spite of these sudden and startling changes, Mary’s response was “whatever”. Not an “oh well, who cares what happens” response, but a “whatever you desire to do, God” response. She replied to Gabriel, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Do we willingly submit our plans to God’s—even when they don’t make sense or cause confusion or misunderstanding around us?

As we read the Christmas story, we see other changes to the well-laid plans: the trip to Bethlehem and the birth away from home, the visits from the shepherds and the Wise Men and finally, exile in Egypt. Talk about having your lives turned upside down! We see, though, that God’s plans are always best. The important question this holiday season is not have you got your shopping done or if you’ll remember to thaw the turkey in time for Christmas dinner, but have you heard of God’s plan and if you have, what do you intend to do about it?

Jesus is more than just the baby in the manger we sing about or see on Christmas cards. He is God’s Son who was born, died and rose again to be the Lord of our lives. Because of God’s great love, that has always been His glorious eternal plan.