2020 has been a year of plans made, plans re-made, plans announced, plans adjusted, plans cancelled, and plans repurposed. Most all of this has been due to the Coronavirus and it’s ebbs and flows, spikes and surges. Businesses, schools, families and congregations have had to adjust their plans accordingly. Just when we think we’ve arrived at a plan that will work, some adjustment is required in response to the ever changing situations driven, writ large, by the virus.
This has caused me to think about God’s plans – or, namely God’s plan – announced and reviewed during Advent. We often turn to the prophets during this time of year, most especially Isaiah, to remember how God announced the plan of the Messiah. Texts such as Isaiah 7:10-17 (v.14 says, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel) or 9:2-7 (v.6 says For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace) offer snippets of the plan. The plan is further announced in Isaiah 61, a passage Jesus quotes for his first sermon in Luke 4:18ff: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news. . .
When we consider the full story of the Bible, we come to view God’s plan not so much as an unaltered script unrolled at creation, but a plan that has been edited and revised, always with the purposes of God’s love and justice in mind. Consider that on the seventh day, God rested having pronounced the creation very good. Yet shortly thereafter humankind yields to sin and what was perfect is marred. Does God give up on the plan? Hardly! God sets about redeeming and restoring creation, including the redemption of the crown jewel of that creation – humankind.
The plan is altered, revisited, and unfolds in a sequence of narratives from the do-over of the flood and covenant made with Noah, to the covenant with Abraham (a redemption covenant through which all persons shall be blessed), to the covenant with Moses, then David (who will have an heir that reigns and rules forever). The plan is nuanced and flexed to include such unlikely persons as Rahab and Ruth. It overcomes the fickle and imperfect lives of David and Solomon, incorporates the humble lives of Mary and Joseph; yet all along the Lord works the plan. Throughout it is the same plan, just altered and revised so as to account for the unpredictability of free choice, and the ever present love of the Creator who designed it in the beginning.
The plan comes into a greater focus at Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus, though the Christ is present and foreshadowed in many prior ways. It’s in Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection that the plan follows its course toward creation’s restoration. And one day this plan will come to a perfect conclusion, upon the return of King Jesus, as a new heaven and new earth are revealed.
We revisit and rehearse this plan during Advent, and throughout the Church Year. Why? All for the purpose of finding ourselves in it, I suppose. We play a small part, though I suspect the Lord would say there are no small parts. As the object of God’s love and joy with creation, we are part of that which was first pronounced “good” so long ago. It’s in restoration of that “goodness” that this plan has continued to be followed and fulfilled. Sometimes plans are worth revision. Despite the throw away tendencies of our own time, some plans are just too important to abandon. Aren’t you glad?