Christmas is just a few days away. Of course, when you read this it will be in your rear view mirror. The pressing concern of January is to plan and organize. With the holidays behind you, take time to debrief and consider what made Christmas special. In particular, ask yourself: What about my celebrations affected me the most? Did my festivities enable me to glorify God with all of my being. Was my worship spiritual and scriptural? Was I full of love and adoration for my God? How did Jesus’ incarnation make my sacrificial living and giving a true joy?
Let your debriefing guide your planning. Be smart and learn from your experiences. As you plan, take into account what one man recently referred to as the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns.” There are things that will certainly happen, though you do not know how or when. Death is an example. No one yet has avoided it though few know when it will happen. Plan for it! It is a “known unknown.”
Other unexpected things should be expected. You can’t know what they are and you can’t be absolutely certain how or when they will come, but you can be reasonably certain that they will. Plan for them. But, you ask, how can we expect anybody to plan for “unknown unknowns?” Please get this. You must plan for them. The Christmas story illustrates how.
The gospel writer Luke in his first chapter tells us about the priest Zechariah. We can learn from him as an example of the importance of planning rightly. Zechariah is presented to us as a man who was “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” This is not a story about good things happening to good people. Zechariah needed a savior too and suddenly found himself in God’s plan of salvation. Secondly, the text tells us that he was of the priestly line of Aaron together with his wife Elizabeth. They were both engaged in serving God, he in a formal way and she as his wife. Thirdly, Zechariah was a man who failed to plan for the unique servant role that God had for him.
This is not about finding fault. No one is saying that Zechariah should have expected to father John the Baptist in his old age. He could not have known. But Zechariah met the announcement of Gabriel with unbelief. He was simply unprepared. In his failure he teaches the attentive.
One of the things that every Christian must prepare to do is to serve King Jesus. That is a “known unknown.” Perhaps you do not know where or when, but you will be expected to step up and serve. You can and should plan on it. Zechariah actually did that much. When his family was called upon to serve in the temple, he was ready. When his lot was chosen to burn incense and offer prayers, his lifetime of preparation enabled him to do it.
But he did not plan for the angel’s appearance and more importantly, he was not ready for it. That was his “unknown unknown!” Contrast Mary. She did not know that Gabriel would visit her either. She was startled with her own impossible role in God’s plan of redemption. But her response to the angel indicated she was prepared in a very significant way. Her “Let it be to me as you have spoken” was the response of faith and obedience.
How do you plan for that? You reach that kind of readiness through disciplined engagement with the word of God. Prayer and participation in scriptural worship make you a team player. Spiritual disciplines build character that will enable you to respond appropriately when God calls your name. Like “Special Forces” soldiers, we are to live and breath readiness! It doesn’t just happen. Think through what it takes. Devise your plan. Work it. Evaluate it and reapply yourself! You will be ready. Make that your Christmas Plan.
Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church, Byram; *English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Exported from Logos Bible Software; Originally published in the February 2015 Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi