Sermon Manuscript – 12/27/09 (God's Mission in Christmas)

During this advent season with all of this snow, I have certainly been able to sit down and ponder a little more than usual. Without the hustle and bustle of the school pressure I began to prepare myself this year for Christmas. I had some time to reread some things I skimmed during school, and I came across a book about how God did mission through the birth of Jesus.[1] And today I would like to share some thoughts from this book that were a wonderful reminder of what it means to follow Christ during the season of Christmas.

Today we have heard a story of an unwed teenage mother. Today when we hear of such things happening it brings disgrace to mind of most. However, in the First century Israel, this would have been scandalous. Even more problematic, she claims to the people that her fiancé is not even the husband. Now Nazareth was not so big of a place. I mean Lexington would be huge compared to this small town, approximately about 400 families, of Nazareth. To think about how quickly the news was passes through small towns, how awful it must have been for Mary and Joseph to be known as the ones who were bearing an illegitimate child. Did Jesus, the son of God really have to reveal himself to the world in this way?

I mean, there have certainly been better times throughout all of history that Jesus may have shown himself. Why couldn’t Jesus have been born during the time of David or Solomon in Jerusalem. Jesus the King of kings be brought into the world as such? Or if Jesus wasn’t born then, couldn’t he have at least been born during the Maccabees period just merely 150 years earlier. Those people during that time were so zealous for the law and the temple that they stirred up religious and political revivals. Or possibly, why not be born in Rome during its Hayday?

But Nazareth? In Galilee? That is a lot like the President of the United States picking up his administration, firing half of them, and deciding to move the national capitol to a trailer park over here down yon one of these hollers. Now I am sure we all have our own ideas of what some people are called who live out in the middle of Nowhere. Commonly growing up, my friends and I would consider people from West Virginia a hick, or as Jeff Foxworthy may say, Rednecks. Well Galilee would probably be much like that compared to Jerusalem. Them country folk who fish and farm. And Nazareth was then considered to be how my friends and I thought of WV compared to Galilee, a bunch of hicks who don’t know dirt from ground. The question that comes to mind then, is why on any where in earth would God choose to be born among the defeated people in a back words town, through the dishonor of a poor, unwed, teenager?

It was even through his birth that Jesus made a statement of coming and being among the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed. It was one of the most profound acts of God’s mission to come and be like the people. When Jesus was an adult he was questioned why does he go and eat among the sinners? When Jesus had heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus’ birth echoes these words in his teaching.

This God of ours is and continues to be different from any other of the gods people have worshipped. Our God, the God who created all things has had and continues to have the desire to be among his people. God even said to Moses in Exodus 29, “I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.” There is certainly a different kind of dynamic when you go and live among someone. I believe we can all relate when we say the way we are at church is not necessarily the way we live at home. We do not kick back and put our feet up and take our shoes off and relax in front of people who are not our family or close friends like we do at home.

When I was in the ninth grade I had an uncle who came to live with my family. His wife and child were down in Norfolk, but he had a new job in Northern Virginia. He came and lived with us throughout the weeks, but would go home on the weekends.  Whether it is a relative or not, when someone comes and lives with you, always around you, you truly begin to build a bond with them that could never have been built otherwise. Now, my Uncle Mark knew what his brother was like and knew who I and my brothers were. But it was not until he came and lived among us and with us did he begin to build that bond.

Much like my Uncle Mark, God sent his son into the world, to live life among his people, to share in life’s joys, but also to share in life’s struggles. To build this bond with his people that otherwise could not be built. When we pray to God, Jesus has been through it, he knows the pain we feel when we don’t have the money to put food on a table, he knows what it’s like to have family who are sick, In the glory of God’s plan, Jesus has lived and experienced the human life as a human, as a crying baby, mouth wide opened, wailing and kicking, with the shouts so loud and so high that you know it could only be a baby. This was God’s act of being involved in our lives and now we must strive, through and by his spirit to go and do likewise. Ministering to the poor, the hopeless, the meek, and the forgotten and what better way to do that than living among them/ befriending them, and sharing a God who has and continues to do likewise.

Folks, this is Christmas,  the God incarnate, the word made flesh, the God who lives among us.

[1] Scott A Bessenecker, The New Friars (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006). 58-60

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