O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Got a Plan?
Got a Plan?
Based on Matthew 2:1-12
Preached on January 06, 2013
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, do you have a plan for how you want your life to go? Have you got all of your expectations mapped out carefully? I have no idea what you think of Woody Allen, but today's Gospel reading reminds me of something he said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans." I don't know if Woody knew it or not, but his words agree with the Psalms: [Psalm 33:10] The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The Epiphany account of the magi very much demonstrates the truth in these words. For in the visit of the magi God shows He is directly working to change people's plans.
I suppose we could take it all the way back to when the angel Gabriel paid a visit to young Mary. Mary had a plan. It involved getting married to Joseph one day and starting a family. But God had other plans. [Isaiah 7:14] Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Then there is the place of the birth. Did Mary plan to give birth to the child in Bethlehem away from her family? God did. [Micah 5:2] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Then there are the magi. Who knows what they had planned when they noticed that there was a new light in the sky ... a light unlike any light they had seen before ... a light that caused them to put their plans aside and set out in search of a new born king. Even this plan which hoped to find the king in Jerusalem, had to be changed, because He wasn't there.
King Herod told the magi to look for the king in Bethlehem, but when the magi set out from Jerusalem, the star showed them the true location of the new born king. By now everyone expects the new born king to be in Bethlehem, but if we read the account carefully, it doesn't really tell us where they found the child. Maybe they found the child in Bethlehem, maybe they didn't. The Bible doesn't say.
Plans keep getting frustrated, for the magi planned to worship the new born king and then return to Herod, but God had other plans. An angel appeared to them in a dream and warned them to return by another route.
Herod had plans. Herod planned to rule indefinitely. Herod murdered friend, family, and enemy alike in order to keep himself on the throne in Jerusalem. He planned to murder the new born king. God had other plans. [Matthew 2:13] An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Herod's plan failed. Not only did he fail to murder the new born king, but he also died ... and when he died no one mourned.
Joseph had a plan. He planned to wed Mary and then be the father of her children. He didn't plan to be the step dad of a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. He probably never planned to do any international traveling either ... much less to Egypt.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans. The entire account of the visit of the magi ... indeed the entire historical content of the Bible constantly shows us that God's plans always come to pass while man's plans are very much subject to change.
Did Noah plan to build a floating zoo? Did Joseph plan to get sold into slavery by his brothers and then become Pharaoh's right hand man? When Moses planned to deliver Israel from slavery, God first sent him out into the desert alone for forty years. Only then, once Moses turned eighty and gave up on his plan to deliver Israel, did God come to him in a burning bush. Saul planned to travel to Damascus and arrest Christians, but God struck him to the ground in a bright light so that he became Paul the Apostle. These are but a few examples of God changing people's plans.
What about your plans? Is life not treating you the way you anticipated? Are you struggling because you want life to be different? God knows. He sees exactly where you are, and knows exactly where He is leading you. And more important than anything else, you can trust Him, no matter how bad things seem to get. Christ shows us this. By faith we can grasp that God's plan for our lives is better than our own, even if it doesn't seem like it in the moment.
God inspired Isaiah to prophesy, [Isaiah 55:8-9] "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." We can be very, very glad that God changes plans. We can be very, very glad that God's plans for us are not what we expect. For while we sit here in the valley trying to see what is up on the top of the hill, God is looking down from heaven and He promises it is worth it, and that we will make it. Plans are a funny thing sometimes.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought a curse on all of creation. They expected punishment. They ran and hid. They did not expect God to promise a seed who would crush the serpent's head. You and I might have expected God to erase His creation and start over. But He didn't do that. He sent a savior, instead. Instead of punishing His creation or erasing His creation, He redeemed His creation.
Even the way that the redeemer did the redeeming did not fit the expectations of man. The people who had God's promises ... the people who should have known better ... even these people expected a king of earthly power and glory. Herod most certainly expected a king of power and glory. That is the reason he was troubled. If Herod had understood the true nature of this new born king ... that His kingdom is not of this world ... Herod wouldn't have cared.
"Man's plans" expect a redeemer who makes laws, not one who lives under the law, but the Bible tells us:[Galatians 4:4-5] When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Man expects a redeemer of great power and wealth. Never the less, God's Word says, [2 Corinthians 8:9] you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Although the prophets foretold the suffering servant of God, even Jesus' own disciples did not expect Jesus to suffer and die. Even so God's Word says, [Galatians 3:13] "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'"
The resurrection did not fit the plans of the Pharisees and the chief priests for we read: [Matthew 27:62-64] The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise.' Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last fraud will be worse than the first."
The guards at Jesus' tomb didn't plan to see an angel, but God changed their plans. [Matthew 28:2-6] An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans. Pagan philosophers from a foreign land come to worship the Christ child. At the same time, the powerful in Jerusalem ... the high priests ... the scribes ... the man on the throne ... they haven't got a clue. The account of the magi visiting the Christ child once again shows us that our lives are subject to God's plan ... not ours. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: [Philippians 2:13] It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Fortunately for us, it is God's good pleasure that we spend eternity with Him. His plan is to work your salvation. No, that may not mean you are popular, or rich, or have any other worldly benefits - It means that God is getting you through this to His heavenly riches, His eternal presence which is beyond all measure. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: [Ephesians 1:4] He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. God's plan of salvation for us has been in place since before He created the world. It is that plan of salvation that was at work as He revealed the Savior to the magi by way of the star. It is that plan of salvation that is still at work in us as He reveals and gives that same salvation to us through His blessed, holy word and sacraments. It is that plan of salvation that will one day take us from this valley of sorrows to live in His eternal presence in holiness and joy forever. May all of this be yours in abundance. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr