Man, it’s been awhile since I last blogged. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I just haven’t had the time. I’m putting on hold the Purity study for the moment. I’m giving the message for my youth group tonight at around 7ish, so if you remember just lift me up in prayer that I do alright, that I don’t get lost in the land of “Umm’s”, and that I don’t engage my mouth before my brain and end up stumbling over my words. I’m teaching on Luke 2:7-21, we’re doing a topic called Awkward Family Christmas, and I chose this passage to kick off with, so I guess you can say we’re starting backward with Christ’s birth first. So, below is my lesson I’m giving. The Bible verses are in red.
In the weeks before Christmas we’re going to be taking a look at the birth of CHrist, because that’s what Christmas is about. We’re titling this series Awkward Family Christmas, because along with being one of the best times of the year, it’s also filled with pretty awkward moments. Sometimes, they’re the most awkward of your life. We’ll also be talking about the birth of Christ, again, joyous moment, but pregnancy and birth are also some of the most awkward times of anybody’s life. As many of you know, I work at the hospital. NO, I’m not a MURSE (Male nurse), I’m a registrar which is the annoying person that comes in and gets your address and insurance info. Primarily I work in the ER, but one of my duties is to register after hours family birth patients. Sometimes it gets pretty awkward for me. I remember when My Friend Heidi came in and I had to register her, I came into the room and there was this big rubber ball like they have at the gym in the middle of the room and I just kind came in and sat on it. Heidi looked at me and said: “are you sure you want to sit on my birthing ball?” Needless to say I got up pretty quickly. Christ’s birth was also pretty awkward. We’re going to take a backwards look at his life in this series. I’m going to start off with HIS birth, probably one of the most awkward moments in Mary’s life. When you think about having a baby, you imagine being surrounded by family, friends, a hospital, at the least a midwife. Mary had none of this, in fact it was pretty messy. Take a look at this video, and then we’re going to dive right into what the Bible says about Christ’s birth
- and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Christ’s birth probably wasn’t exactly how Mary was expecting it to be. When you think about a birth you think about being surrounded by friends and family, medical people, at the very least a midwife and clean sheets. Mary had none of this. In fact, it was a pretty awkward experience for her. You see, God had engineered events so that Mary and Joseph had to travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem, and by the time they had gotten to Bethlehem, all the rooms in the local hotels, motels, inns, and even Bed and breakfasts were filled, and if it weren’t for a kind hearted innkeeper giving them a place in his stable, they would have been in a real bind. I’m sure when the Angel appeared to Mary to tell about being the Mother of GOD’s son she had some expectations of her own, and yet here she was in a stable, alone, with only her husband and a bunch of animals to celebrate. I’m sure, as she stared down at her newborn first child she was filled with questions, with doubts, maybe even frustrations. Probably her biggest question, was how the heck was she going to be able to do this. You know what though, God knew, and HE was at work even before the moment of birth GOD was at work. Let’s take a look at these next set of verses.
- And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
As Mary was having her doubts, and probably as she was preparing to give birth, GOD was at work. Out in the fields of Bethlehem were some shepherds doing their job. Shepherds weren’t exactly high on the social status meter of that time, they spent most of their time with sheep, so they smelled like sheep, they were outdoorsmen, so they were pretty rough looking men, actually they were probably not much older than most of you. They were sitting around a campfire doing what most guys do, talk about girls, talk about sheep, whatever guys talk about when they sit around the campfire. All of sudden, bam, a bright light and a guy levitating in mid- air appears in front of them. What started out as a simple average evening, now was an awkward, terrifying moment. I say awkward because they probably had to change their shorts. They’re left speechless because how often does an angel appear and talk to you. What’s more, he tells them to not be afraid, but how could they not be afraid. You see, they don’t know it, but GOD was about to use them to confirm Mary’s appointment and to speak into her fears. There was a reason GOD chose shepherds to be the ones to herald Christ’s birth. You see, they had the characteristics that GOD was looking for. What are those characteristics, well a shepherd is a protector, a nurturer, and a servant (explain in detail each one). You see, they are symbols of how Christ is a shepherd for us.
Isaiah 53:6 “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
John 10:11: 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:14, 1514 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep:
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
What do you do after a bunch of Angels appear to your and tell you to find a baby in Bethlehem? Well, you beat feet to Bethlehem and find that baby. The text doesn’t say if they left anyone to guard the sheep or if they left the sheep to fend for themselves, or if they took the sheep with them, regardless, they headed for Bethlehem. Can you imagine the “ruckus” they caused? I’m sure there were quite a few awkward moments for them as they went in search of Jesus. The text didn’t say if the angels gave them exact directions, so I can imagine the shepherds running up to the first inn with a stable and saying: “Umm, uh….is there a newborn baby here? No, uh..sorry, thanks, carry on”. Awkward explanations as to why they were searching for a baby at that time of night, and then the awkward backing away as people gave them strange looks; but you know what, they didn’t care. They were on a mission. When they finally found the Newborn Baby Jesus, I’m sure there was a lot of awkwardness as they stumbled into the barn. Can you imagine the conversation:
Shepherds: “Uh…hi, We were told there’s a baby here”
Joseph: (probably a bit protective and aggravated) “yeah, and you’re here, why?”
Shepherds: “ Um, yeah, ya see, these angels appeared, I know this is hard to believe, but they told us to come and find the Baby who was born that would be the Messiah?”
Mary: (Probably relieved and amazed): “you’ve found him, come and see”
Can you imagine this moment? There’s a couple of things I need to point out here. What happened when the Angels appeared: They went, they were excited, and they had a boldness beyond themselves.
The completely amazing thing that blows me away is how GOD put this all together. You see, when GOD gives us a desire, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. GOD prepares the ground for us ahead of time by orchestrating the events of history and preparing the hearts of the people surrounding those events. We’ll see in the coming weeks how GOD prepared the hearts of the people surrounding Mary and Joseph, but don’t you think HE was also preparing the hearts of the shepherds as well? As far as the events of history, well, Months possibly even years before Christ’s birth the idea was planted in Caesar’s mind to have a census taken of EVERYONE in the empire and the logistics and man-hours put into it to make it happen they way it did so that a teenage girl and her husband would have to be in a strange town at the time she needed to give birth. And some would say that’s a coincidence.
We talked a little about Mary’s uncertainty, her doubts as she looked into the eyes of her newborn first child and maybe she spoke them to Joseph or kept them to herself, we don’t know, but GOD DID. Don’t you think the conversations between the shepherds and Mary and Joseph that night confirmed for Mary that GOD knew what HE was doing? It wasn’t some random “drive by” greeting the shepherds had. They had to hear Mary and Joseph’s story, just as Mary and Joseph had to hear their story, and each individual shepherd had a version of how that story impacted them. That visit took quite awhile probably and was a HUGE encouragement to Mary. It says in vs 19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She was left in awe at GOD’s answer to her unspoken fears, and that’s what GOD does for us. He speaks into our fears and doubts in a way that leaves us amazed. And then, they left as they came but no longer seeking and questioning, but with answered questions and proclaiming the wonder that GOD had done; in essence they were the first witnesses.
Finally, GOD knows and HE understands and relates. What does GOD know you may be asking? Well, GOD knows your fears, your doubts, and your struggles. GOD understands because HE sent HIS Son JESUS to be born and to grow up. There’s a reason there’s a silence between the age of 12 and the age of 30 when HE started HIS ministry, and that is because HE grew up in a small town and experienced everything any human child could experience. I want to read to you an excerpt from Max Lucado’s book GOD CAME NEAR. This section of the book rocked my world in college because it caused me to totally rethink my view of Christ. Before, I just pictured HIM as sitting in heaven with a gavel in his hand and not being able to relate to the struggles of a teenage boy. Well, listen to how Max Lucado put it:
GOD Came Near By Max Lucado
It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment.
As moments go, that one appeared no different than any other. If you could somehow pick it up off the timeline and examine it, it would look exactly like the ones that have passed while you have read these words. It came and it went. It was preceded and succeeded by others just like it. It was one of the countless moments that have marked time since eternity became measurable.
But in reality, that particular moment was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
The Omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.
God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.
God had come near.
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty.
No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.
Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of stargazers, there would have been no gifts.
Angels watched as Mary changed God’s diaper. The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons…
Jesus may have had pimples. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice versa. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing’s for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.
He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable.
But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
Listen to him.
“Love your neighbor” was spoken by a man whose neighbors tried to kill him.
The challenge to leave family for the gospel was issued by one who kissed his mother goodbye in the doorway.
“Pray for those who persecute you” came from the lips that would soon be begging God to forgive his murderers.
“I am with you always” are the words of a God who in one instant did the impossible to make it all possible for you and me.
It all happened in a moment. In one moment…a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.
There will be another. The world will see another instantaneous transformation. You see, in becoming man, God made it possible for man to see God. When Jesus went home he left the back door open. As a result, “we will all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”
The first moment of transformation went unnoticed by the world. But you can bet your sweet September that the second one won’t. The next time you use the phrase “just a moment,” …remember that’s all the time it will take to change this world.