You know how you are reading a book and you think "Huh, that's an interesting coincidence," and then you find out, as the pages turn, that it wasn't coincidence at all, but a carefully executed story line, a plot woven strategically and painstakingly to keep you guessing but intrigued...and ALWAYS coming back for more Do you know what I mean?
Maybe that never happens to you. I am sad to say that, as an author, I have trouble just enjoying any plot line, and instead spend entire movie viewings and book readings attempting to figure out what is going to happen next.
And when it all comes together seamlessly and exactly as I predicted/hoped it would, I will sigh in relief and smile and nod, all the details having been perfectly worked out.
But sometimes we just don't GET the vision of the writers/plot creators. A book ends, movie credits roll, a television series airs it's final episode...and we sit, frowning, thinking "What. The. Heck?"
Sometimes I will read a book or watch a movie a second time, paying closer attention to the coincidences that really aren't, and trying to make sense of what I had considered a total plot FAILURE the first reading/viewing.
And sometimes, the second time around, I will see some new things that I had missed the first time, and I'll feel slightly less disenchanted with all of LIFE...but only slightly. Because, seriously, have you ever watched the TV series "LOST" ??? After viewing the final episode of that series, I was so confused that I vowed never to watch it again. Talk about a plot/story line gone WRONG.
I think sometimes that I read the Bible that way too, thinking "something else should happen here, not this...this doesn't make sense. I would feel so much more satisfied with different details and an alternate ending to this story."
I have been pondering the Christmas story lately (for obvious reasons) and this coincidence-within-a-story-line thing has been marinating in my heart.
Because if I have learned anything from growing up with Dan and Patty Bausum as my parents, it's that God crafted His book perfectly, and none of it was ever just coincidentally recorded. (I have learned lots more things than this, by the way, this is just one of my favorite things that being their child has taught me.)
EVERYTHING in Scripture has purpose. All the stories are meant to be so much more than stories. They are meant to speak to us, to our lives here today. My parents are masterful at explaining the way the Lord chose His plot to unfold before us. I am way less masterful, (WAY LESS) but I have been turning the Christmas story over in my mind for a few weeks now, and I have some coincidences to point out.
Maybe you've seen some too, in your reading of the story. Or maybe not. You might be a person (like my husband) who never asks themselves "WHY?" during a movie or book, but simply enjoys the story.
Not me. I am always, forever, trying to put myself in the author's shoes and understand what went through their minds when they made their artistic choices. And because He knows His story is perfect, God doesn't mind that I'm sometimes taken aback by the twists, and I question the plot choices made.
Examples, you ask?
Well, there are the obvious things to question in the story of Christmas.
A stable? Really?
A census taken right at the time for the baby to come?
A virgin? Why?
A little tiny town with not nearly enough hotels?
A new star?
A low income carpenter for an earthly father?
Smelly shepherds heralded by Heaven's Host?
Wise men from far away lands?
A manger? Yuck. how much animal saliva was mixed in with the new baby smell? WHY A MANGER?
If all the details of God's book matter (and they do, FYI, because my daddy told me so. ;)- ) then what is the significance of all the strange details in the recorded events of Christ's birth?
I certainly don't have all the answers...but I know a few things I have begun to see differently, since the pondering began. This is kind of how it's been going around in my head...
"A stable. Where the beasts of burden live...hmm...Jesus, the Son of God, born where the burden carriers dwell." Coincidence? "Cast your burdens on the Lord, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
"A census? Right then? Requiring Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem...Bethlehem... the city of David...where the Messiah was predicted to be born..." That's an easy coincidence to see as anything BUT chance.
"A tiny town given the great honor of hosting Emmanuel? Tiny...small...barely significant...like me, and still He breathes in the middle of cold, dark, lonely nights, the ones in my heart..."
"A virgin? Obvious prophesy fulfillment again, so not coincidence...but WHY was that part of the prophesy? Why? A virgin...life growing in her body...life that wasn't of her own making. Growth that was from the Holy Spirit, that all her striving could never accomplish. Her surrender was all that God Almighty needed, and then the Holy Spirit did the rest...like me...like every day of my life...the only life that comes out of me is from the Holy Spirit..." Holy crap. That's one to ponder on for a while...
"Smelly shepherds? Dirty and poor and overlooked...the first to hear the announcement...honor given to the least...like me...He honors me with His presence, though I am filthy and worthless..."
"Wise men? Giving gifts that would sustain them financially...a practical coincidence...except...they saw a new star, a light that they simply had to follow, and they laid great riches at the feet of the One who is worthy of all our traveling, searching, looking for.."
"The star...the star that proclaimed the birth of the Savior...a new light. It could've been anything to announce His arrival. An oasis springing up. An animal talking. An earthquake. A mighty rushing wind. But instead...light...Light...the Light of the World...shining new. Bright, but silent and peaceful at the same time." Coincidence? "Jesus said to them, "I am the light of the world." John 8:12
"A carpenter for an adopted father? A trade learned by the boy King...to build...to take a rough piece of wood and turn it into something else, something useful for life...like me...rough and useless, but hammered and chiseled and cut into something that He chooses, something He can use."
"And while I'm pondering the carpenter thing...Emmanuel, adopted by a carpenter. Though they shared no DNA, He was raised as the son of Joseph. Joseph gave his name, and protection, and provision, to Jesus. The same way God, the Great Builder, gives His name and protection and provision to me...I'm adopted too...Jesus grew up understanding what it was like to be adopted..." Whoa. That's some food for thought. "This High Priest of ours understands...for He faced all the same testings we do..." Hebrews 4:15
"A manger. A feed trough. A place where the beasts carrying the burdens received nourishment...food...life...I'm burdened too, and hungry, and in need of sustenance...and the Bread of Life is there for me, ready to nourish my spirit...A baby, God wrapped in flesh, laid out as the food for all mankind." Oh, my heart. "I am the bread of life." John 6:48
I won't go on. I could, but I won't.
Instead, I'm going to sit here and read, once more, the greatest story ever told, with the most unexpected event choices, and I'm going to see each as a step made just for me, to teach me something new about the character and CARE of my Father.
Not only did He love me so much that He sent His Son to live and suffer and die for me...He also chose every detail of that story to draw me to His heart.
That is no coincidence.