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"For He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in Heaven and things on earth."
- Ephesians 1:9-10

Preparation. It's something we all do all the time. We prepare for going to school or work by eating breakfast, getting ourselves reasonably groomed, and putting on appropriate clothes. Those of you going to school will (hopefully!) have also prepared by doing your homework assignments. Choirs and orchestras put in lots of time rehearsing before doing performances. A portrait photographer needs to set up the lights and background properly, and position his or her subject(s) correctly or the photos won't look right.

Think of all the preparations that go into taking a vacation. It usually takes weeks worth of little things here and there to bring it all together, plus a day or two of concentrated work just prior to leaving. It took me over two months of on-and-off to get this new version of my website programmed correctly and stocked with all the content.

At this time of year we do LOTS of preparing: buying and wrapping presents, planning parties, putting up decorations, etc.

So what's the point? Well, if we humans can understand the importance of planning and preparation, you can bet God would never forget about it! And indeed, prior to God the Son's arrival on earth on the first Christmas, everything was carefully prepared so the event would come off exactly as planned.

Some of the preparations had actually begun centuries before, with the many Old Testament prophecies about the promised Messiah. Matthew in particular among the Gospel writers references a lot of these, some directly related to Jesus' birth. For example:

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means God with us)"
- Matthew 1:23 (quoting Isaiah 7:14)

Closer to the event, God made more material preparations. He gave an old childless couple a special son, who grew up to be John the Baptizer, the one who prepared the region for the three year ministry of Jesus. He sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, so she would know what was about to happen to her and her husband to be. Speaking of which, an angel was also sent to Joseph in a dream to tell him not to divorce Mary for her apparent infidelity, but to take her as his wife just as they had planned, because the child she was carrying was of the Holy Spirit.

There's an interesting aspect to the Old Testament prophecy part of God's preparation, and it is summed up in I Peter 1:10-12:

The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you."
In other words, the prophets to whom God gave the predictions about the Messiah did not themselves fully understand those predictions at the time! It's something any Christian should be able to relate to, because although we don't receive prophetic predictions, we don't always understand the preparations God makes in our own lives for the fulfillment of His will for us. Joseph, for example, certainly didn't understand at first what had gone wrong in his relationship with Mary, and he was undoubtedly angry and heartbroken. But God's plan was right on track, and in the end everything worked out as it was supposed to. A big part of being a Christian is learning how to trust God when we don't understand why things are happening. We must remember that, as Paul wrote in Romans, all things work together for good for those who love Him. It's all part of God's preparation for the rest of our lives, and for eternity.

As you can see in the passage at the beginning of this lesson, Christmas itself, along with the rest of Jesus' life, and His death and Resurrection, are all preparation for the eternal kingdom of God, which all of us who have believed in the Lord Jesus will one day enter. So as you're doing all of your own holiday preparations this year, don't forget the most important one of all: preparing your heart for the true 'reason for the season.' If you have not already opened your heart to Him, let this be the year and the time! If you have, don't forget to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas celebration!

Remember, Jesus isn't just coming to the manger. He's coming to YOU!

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