Paper Plates, Toilet Paper, and Christmas

“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a virgin, born under the law, that he might redeem them which were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

Stockings are suspended above our makeshift fireplace. Mine looks like a cowboy boot, and my wife’s is a white fuzzy sock topped with red and with ‘Merry Christmas’ spelled out in elegant script and repeated all over in no particular pattern. Presents for family and friends are all purchased, gifts wrapped and waiting under the tree, and the brisket is smoked for our traditional holiday lunch. More from politeness than Christmas spirit, I ask my wife if there is anything else I may do to make our Christmas preparations complete. Anticipating a request for a Peppermint Mocha Skinny from Starbucks or some other festive assignment, I am emotionally ill equipped for my assigned task: fight the hordes in the grocery store and purchase paper plates and toilet paper. Instead of putting finishing touches on my address for the Christmas Eve candlelight & communion service at our little church, or meditating on the relevance of the incarnation, I make a store run for paper products. As grace would have it, I approach the toilet paper aisle at WalMart and run into a friend I’ve not seen for several years; we were jail ministry volunteers together at the McLennan County Jail. His voice breaks as he describes the family challenges and health issues he’s endured over the past few years. He tells me of the heart tests he didn’t pass with flying colors earlier in the week, but his countenance lifts as I pray for him between paper plates and toilet paper. After a closing embrace he said, “I’m sure glad my wife sent me after toilet paper today.”

Life is not so much about how well you plan, but how you handle interruptions, and the Christmas event is the highest example of holy intrusion in human history. For the individuals involved in the Christmas drama, it was one unexpected interruption after another. Consider Zacharias, busy about his priestly duties offering incense in the sacred holy of holies, when he is arrested by an angel. Think about Elizabeth, an upright woman who observed the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly in the sight of God. Her husband went away for his two weeks of priestly service in a normal condition and returned home silenced. Mary, a young virgin engaged to be married to a good man, is met by an angel that turned her life upside down and the world right side up. Then there’s Joseph, who gets the shock of his life when he finds out that the virgin to whom he is engaged is already pregnant. He is an honorable man, and knows that he did not have that honor.

Each interruption came on its own time and according to its own schedule, but for the actors in the Christmas drama each happened at the most inopportune moment God could have chosen. Holy intrusions remind us of who is in control. Although it was a surprise to all and traumatic for some, Christmas came exactly as God planned. This Christmas make room for some divine disruptions because that’s where life’s miracles take place.

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