Life is a lot like dot-to-dot puzzles. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. A bunch of dots scattered across a page. I see no semblance of the completed picture God sees as he draws the lines that connect the dots one by one.
Does your life feel this way? A dot here. A dot there, with no clear resemblance of a completed puzzle to show what it is all about.
The Christmas story includes a lot of random dots spanning hundreds of years. Not until the birth of Jesus did God connect the dots for the Big Picture.
Dot by Dot God’s Plan Unfolds
An article, The Significance of Bethlehem: The Message of the Birth captured my attention of the details God used to connect the dots.
On the hills about six miles south of Jerusalem lay an area, a town called Bethlehem. It was there, on those hills, sheep grazed, shepherds kept watch, and newborn lambs were chosen and set apart. These distinct lambs born in Bethlehem, were predestined to be offered as a Passover sacrifice at the Temple…these were royal lambs, handpicked and approved for a task only a privileged few would have. Sure, there were other towns who raised other lambs, but it was only Bethlehem that birthed lambs pure and special enough to be considered worthy of giving their life as a sacrifice to the Lord.
The skilled shepherds who cared for these lambs were called “Rabbinical” or priestly shepherds. Because they were familiar with the Old Testament writings and had been educated in the Law of Moses, they were trained with special skills to keep the Temple lambs unblemished.
A dot here…
Immediately after birth, the male lambs were meticulously looked over and inspected, making sure they were flawless and without fault. Then the perfect lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes (strips of cloth), certifying their birth was a “holy birth.” The lambs wrapped in strips of cloth were separated and set apart for holy purposes.
A dot there…
Joseph and Mary must have wondered how God would make sense of how He was using them in the puzzle. While they had both said “Yes” to God’s invitation as one of the dots in His plan, they couldn’t see how He picked them to be connecting lines to the Big Picture.
How did a couple from Nazareth randomly happen to be in Bethlehem when Mary went into labor?
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)
God Connected the Dots
Mary, from the tribe of Judah, was the young virgin Isaiah 7:14 tells us about. She was already engaged to Joseph, also a descendant of King David, from the tribe of Judah. The ancestral town they had to return to for census was the Bethlehem Micah predicted 700 years before.
Learning of Bethlehem’s reputation for raising male lambs for Temple sacrifice, the birthplace of Christ seems very significant to me. The beauty of the Christmas story is understanding the role God had the shepherds play.
Considered unclean because their vocation involved handling dead carcasses, these outcasts were denied access to Temple ceremony or worship. Isn’t it just like God to let them be the first to hear the birth announcement by the angelic host, and be the first visitors to welcome the Messiah to earth?
God knew the Bethlehem shepherds would understand the news given them by the heavenly host: And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.
Their Rabbinical training and their skilled expertise in selecting flawless, spotless male lambs for sacrifice gave them instant recognition that what the angelic host proclaimed was truth.
Wonder how God will connect the dots in your life?
In my life, some dots stand alone as big question marks. I see no connecting lines there. Like Mary, I’m learning to treasure all these things in my heart, often pondering what they mean. I must remember–
I’m not the one connecting the dots.
If it seems your life’s journey has dots everywhere without sense of purpose, trust that the Master Artist sees the Bigger Picture–The Masterpiece.
God has a beautiful plan for you. It may seem like random dots to you, but He sees them as pathways to reveal His completed work.