Luke 2 v 1 – 7
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.
Robert Burns, the eminent Scottish poet wrote; – ‘The best laid schemes o mice and men gang aft agley,’ He was writing a poem about a mouse at the time but his sentiment is as true as it can get. No matter how best we plan, our schemes are often thrown into chaos by the unexpected.
My wife Jean and I planned our move from Bradford to Derby in 1973 with meticulous precision, or so we thought. I had successfully negotiated the interview for the new job, Jean and I had visited Derby to look around the town and the surrounding area, we had even attracted a buyer for our house in Bradford and everything was going to plan.
The arrangement with my new employer was that temporary accommodation in the form of a local authority house would be available for six months when I commenced my duties. One week prior to my commencement we received a telephone call to say that the accommodation was not available.
We quickly made the journey to Derby and fortunately managed to secure a bed and breakfast accommodation in a house on Duffield Road, just outside the City Centre. For the next six weeks Jean lived at home in Bradford and I enjoyed bed and breakfast accommodation in Derby. Eventually all was well and we bought our own house where I still live today.
From the start we naively thought that it would be a simple process moving about 100 miles south from Bradford to the Midlands but we quickly realised that life is not that easy. The spoken word changes in that short distance and somethings have a different meaning which makes every day routines challenging. A visit to the Bakers for example, I requested a selection of buns and was presented with rolls of bread. What I should have asked for was ‘little cakes’. Spuds became potatoes and an alley between houses changed from a snicket into a ginnel.
Suddenly I grew feathers and became a ‘duck’ and on a visit to the next town of Ilkeston I became a ‘youth’. In Bradford everyone was ‘luv’, a habit I had to get out of when working for a politically correct Local Authority.
I’m not sure what the local builders made of my Yorkshire accent, as words like ‘so’ and ‘door’ usually raised a laugh at my expense.
The views on gastronomic preferences also raised many eye brows. Someone described me as being ‘strange ’as we ate cheese with our Christmas cake and mince pies, and the fact that we ate our Yorkshire Puddings before the main course of our meal bordered on insanity.
Just when we thought that we were back on our plan, Jean and I discovered that we were having our second child. What did Robert Burns say about the best laid schemes of mice and men?
I bet Mary and Joseph and their respective families had everything planned for the marriage of their son and daughter. In those days marriage had two stages, betrothal and the wedding, each stage having its own ceremony and celebration. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph were betrothed so had gone through the first celebration and excitement was building towards the wedding.
It was at this stage when the plans started to go wrong. Mary was expecting a child and it took God’s intervention to persuade Joseph to continue with the marriage. Then just when the new plan was in place, who could foretell that Herod would declare a census. Well actually the prophets of the Old Testament foretold it.
The journey to Bethlehem was not part of the plan, and not being able to find accommodation had not been thought out. Certainly giving birth to Jesus in a stable was never envisaged a few months earlier.
The chaos did not stop there, the shepherds visit was not on the agenda and neither was the subsequent evacuation to Egypt to keep the young child safe.
Mary and Joseph must have thought, ‘What next?
No doubt Robert Burns was correct about the best laid schemes of mice and men, but perhaps we should look to the plans that God lays out for us all, those plans that never go array.
God’s plan for Mary, Joseph and Jesus were written centuries before and we know that his plan led to our salvation through Jesus’s death and resurrection.
I wonder if when our plans go wrong, it could be that God is making corrections on our behalf. Perhaps the direction of our planned journey would take us to the wrong place and God redirects us to where he wants us to be rather than where we think we would like to be.