Have you ever had something not quite go to plan?

One morning, when I was no more than eight, I decided to surprise my family by baking them a cake for breakfast. With an overzealous amount of Nutella and mashed banana, and a total lack of any raising or binding agents, I popped my Franken-cake in the oven. But as anyone who has ever baked a cake can imagine, it turned out nothing like I’d hoped.

Someone who can quite definitely relate to this feeling is Joseph.


He’d planned to marry Mary, start a family, settle down… But in Matthew chapter one, we read: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means God is with us.” Despite knowing this prophecy in Isaiah from a young age, I don’t think Joseph could have ever expected that he would be part of its fulfilment. 

The beauty of this verse for me, however, is that it comes in the context of God divulging His plan to Joseph through an angel. Even though it was nothing like what Joseph had in mind, what an absolute privilege it must have been for the God of the universe to share His plan for redemption with Joseph – and His plan was to be with him.

Believe it or not, God wants to share His plan with us for the transformation of our towns and cities – and He promises to be with us as it all plays out. God gave us Jesus and His spirit exactly for this purpose.

As we go out on mission, however, I think many of us can admit that it often doesn’t go to plan. People don’t respond as we’d hoped, we don’t have the answers we feel we should, and it’s easy to lose confidence and feel out of our depth. But in those moments, we can remember that God wants to be with us, and He wants to share His plan with us – just as He did with Joseph.

Are we asking God to speak and reveal His plan to us, and listening to Him? Or do we feel like my zealous eight-year-old self, adamant I can do it on my own without a recipe?

I’m pretty certain my first attempt at a cake would have turned out much better if I’d had someone with me who knew what they were doing. The great news is, that if we know God is with us, prompting us where to go, what to say, and who to speak to, then there can’t be any failures’ on mission. Our goal is intimacy with the God who is with us, not one hundred people accepting our invitation to come to church every week – although if that happens, amazing!

That memory of the cake and my sweet younger brother boldly eating the solid, grey lump I pulled out of the oven (that my parents politely declined) is one of my favourite memories with him. It didn’t matter that it hadn’t risen, it looked disgusting, and it tasted incredibly questionable. He loved me, and I’d given it a go, so he celebrated my efforts and asked me to make it again the next day.

And so it is with God. It doesn’t matter that we think it’s gone terribly, we said all the wrong things, and we didn’t get the result we wanted – He still loves us, He’s still proud of our obedience to His call, and He is still with us.

During Advent, we’re exploring​Emmanuel, God is with us’ — how the presence of God shapes the work that the Evangelical Alliance cares so passionately about: mission and crossing cultures, reaching young adults, public leadership, public policy, and how this is all made possible by the generosity of the church. We hope that you’ll join us and in this Christmas celebration as we look forward to more of God with us in the year ahead.

Christmas pack card image