This past Christmas, as I read the story of Christ's birth again, I was moved by the way God ordains seemingly unpleasant situations to be part of his perfect plan.
In the book of Luke, there is not only one surprising pregnancy, but two. Elizabeth, Mary's older cousin who was believed to be barren, finds herself pregnant at nearly the same time as Mary. What I find so incredible about this story is how God purposely ordains what seems like two terrible situations to be part of his perfect redemptive plan.
Terrible situation #1 is Elizabeth's barrenness. When Luke describes Elizabeth and her priest husband Zechariah, he praises them as righteous followers of God: "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." But this couple carried a great sorrow in their hearts as "they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years." We know that children were often associated with blessing. People must have wondered why it was that these two couldn't have children, perhaps even surmised that it was because of a sin. Elizabeth and Zechariah must have wondered why God wouldn't grant them a child.
Yet, this is the perfect way God wanted to bring the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. God wanted John the Baptist to be born at just the right time, and wanted Elizabeth and Zechariah to be his mother and father. When Gabriel comes to tell Zechariah the good news that his wife would become pregnant, he says, "Your prayer has been heard." I wonder how many times they had cried out to the Lord, and all along, God knew exactly how he wanted it to happen. What at first seemed a terrible situation comes to be the perfect way.
Terrible situation #2 is of course Mary, an engaged girl who is a virgin and is pregnant. I think we are so used to hearing this miracle that we glaze over it. It is shocking, though. Mary, being like all young girls, no doubt dreamed about the day she too would be a wife and mother. I'm sure she never would have imagined her first baby would happen the way it did. In that day, Mary could have been stoned for being pregnant and unmarried. But this is the way God wanted to bring his son into the world. He wanted a young, inexperienced girl to be Jesus' earthly mother, and a committed young man to be Jesus' earthly father.
Both of them pregnant, Mary stays with Elizabeth for about three months. What conversations they must have had: Elizabeth, old in age and ready to have her first baby, and Mary, a virgin teenager pregnant with the Son of God. And this was how God ordained it all to happen.
God amazes me. What could seem to be absolutely terrible situations (barren woman and pregnant teen) are those he not merely uses but actually chooses to be the way to continue his perfect plan. And we know that God, being never-changing, must have just the same ordination of things in our lives. Nothing happens without a purpose. Nothing happens apart from his perfect plan. Praise God!