As we enter the Christmas season this year, we desperately need the God who fills eternity to remind us that He can work no matter how dark and discouraging the immediate context is…it still pales in comparison to the setting of the first Christmas! To reinforce this truth, the Lord impressed upon me this year a little word found repeatedly in the advent accounts of Scripture that I have previously overlooked. The word is “this,” a pronoun used to “identify a specific person or thing CLOSE AT HAND.”
While Christmas at times seems out of touch with reality, it actually is much more personally and powerfully relevant than we could possibly imagine right where we live and breath! Here are three bold statements that the infallible, irrevocable script of Christmas makes again this year for you and me:
Zacharias: “This is not too good to be true!”
Luke 1:18b “…whereby shall I know THIS”-Allow God to remove your doubts that are fueled by disconnected religiosity and inconducive circumstances.
Our personal relationship with God likely suffers because we have forgotten the essence of Christmas which is, “If God entered human time and space once, He can and will do it again!” Where does your prayer life and spiritual devotion, like Zacharias, need an fresh infusion of belief that God wants to show up and show off this year, not just 2,000+ years removed? The aged Zacharias was struck by the sheer impossibility of the promise. Both he and his wife were “too old” to become the parents of a child. His plaintive question expressed all the pent-up doubt of his heart. What have you given up on ever happening in the balance of your lifetime? Don’t let cynicism crowd out what the gospel of Christmas still makes possible! Would you let Christmas cause you to dream again? To believe again that with God all things are possible?
Luke 1:61b “…there is none of thy kindred that is called by THIS name”-Allow God to expand the testimony of your family.
Though others objected, Elizabeth said that this miracle baby was to be named John, which Zechariah confirmed in writing. Children usually carried family names. In this case the choice of a different name was significant of special expectation for the child. Far too often our immediate family and relations tend to be the end instead of the means. What would God do in our family/other relationships…IF WE WOULD BE WILLING TO CAREFULLY GIVE HIM ALL THE CREDIT…THIS IS HIS DOING?! Christmas boldly declares that God wants to do more than repeat the past in your relationship with family and friends! He wants to expand them and use them to expand His own relationship with people all around you!
Luke 1:66b “…what manner of child shall THIS be”-Allow God to answer the probing questions of a watching world.
The news spread quickly throughout all the hill country of Judea, and people wondered about the future work of this unusual baby-an opportunity for ultimately God to get their full attention. The dark, despondent world around us is constantly asking for answers whether we can audibly hear them or not. The question is do we have the hope-filled answers that God longs to give through our lives and our descendants?! By the way, our kids and grandkids can only have a divine sense of calling, like baby John from the womb (Lk. 1:41), if we who influence them truly believe that the Christmas message is not too good to be true!
Mary: “This makes everything possible!”
Luke 1:29b “…cast in her mind what manner of salutation THIS should be.”-Allow God to overcome what feel like impossible fears.
We often turn our backs on God’s will because we are unwilling to face our greatest fears! (The Christmas story is full of “fear not’s” in light of future-leaning calling!) Would you own THIS Christmas where you want to “play it safe” again to avoid the take-your-breath-away possibilities of what God wants to do through little you? What is God clearly calling you to DO/BE from which your fears are holding you back?
Luke 1:34a “How shall THIS be, seeing I know not a man”-Allow God to overcome impossible facts.
Mary did not seem surprised that the Messiah was to come. Rather, she was surprised that she would be His mother since she was a virgin. But the angel did not rebuke Mary, as he had rebuked Zechariah. This indicates that Mary did not doubt the angel’s words but merely wanted to know HOW such an event would be accomplished. To Mary’s problem of “How?”—it seemed impossible to human reckoning—God’s answer is “the Holy Spirit.” Our flesh’s resources/limitations are not the boundaries of what God can do! Since when is God bound to normal or “tried and true” process alone? Where is your logic/reasoning hindering what God could do in and through you for His glory…glory that most shines through the abnormal and even wildly unprecedented?
Luke 1:36b “THIS is the sixth month with her, who was called barren”- Allow God to affirm what is possible with tangible confirmations.
Here we discover why the Christmas story begins with Zacharias and Elizabeth (“too old to have a child”)…to lay the groundwork for affirmation to Mary (“too virgin to have a child”) of what is possible with God! Based upon this unmistakable affirmation from God through someone she knew well, Mary submitted to her Lord. Your lack of confidence in God has nothing to do with His power and ability and everything to do with your reluctance to submit to whatever, whenever, however means that He chooses! Would you surrender control of having to fully understand before surrendering?
Luke 1:43a “And whence is THIS to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”-Allow God to affirm divine possibilities in your life through verbal blessings.
The same Spirit who would mysteriously enable Mary, as a virgin, to bring the Son of God into the world wanted her to have audible affirmation…through Elizabeth. Who has God providentially put in your life to help you believe the “impossible” that God wants to do in and through you (parent, pastor, counselor, friend, etc.)? Are you missing those blessings and affirmations directly from God Himself? Mary then transitions from listening to praising. This season of processing the impossible with Elizabeth was not just to listen but TO BE HEARD! Are you willing to go on record that you believe that God can truly/will truly do the impossible in your life, with all of its looming hurdles, this Christmas? Don’t play it safe; live out loud that you truly believe that “with God all things are possible!”
Joseph: “This is bigger than you!”
Matthew 1:18a “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on THIS wise”-Allow God to give you perception greater than you intrinsically possess.
There is much more going on this Christmas than you can pick up with your own senses…hence why we go back to the Word every year to get perception beyond this moment and it circumstances. As jarred Joseph discovered, the only way for us to experience God’s salvation of our world is to let Him do it in ways that are way “out of the box” of our predictable experiences, observations, and preferences! Are you willing to let go of those things that far far too much about you and let God bring Christmas again this year ON HIS TERMS! To fully associate with God, the One who wrote the original script of Christmas, means to jump in with both feet this Christmas despite the “ya right’s” from others and even self. Where are you holding out on going all in on the “I am with God no matter how” identity?!
Matthew 1:22a “Now all THIS was done”-Allow God to enrich your life with a mission greater than yourself.
As soon as Joseph awakened from this dream, he obeyed. He violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time was passed. There would be misunderstanding in the community and much gossip at the well, but Joseph knew the true story of Mary’s pregnancy and God’s will for his life. The purpose of this year’s Christmas, like every one before it and after it, is about more than “the mission” of arbitrarily fulfilling your wishes, wants, and dreams! Would you allow God to give your holidays as well as life greater purpose by permitting Him to fulfill His Word through you, your family, and your influence? Where do you need to “unplug” from man’s words on your present circumstances this Christmas and, instead, dig into God’s Word? What comes to your mind when you think of Christmas—GETTING or GIVING? (That determines everything about how in step or out of step you are with God, the one who gave His Son.) Christmas comes with a cost. You cannot fully celebrate and enter into Christmas from a place of CONVENIENCE and COMFORT! What sacrifice is God leading you to make this year to a mission that is bigger than you?
And then….there is this exhilarating, final thought from Max Lucado, “The Bible shows us what God DID; it also shows us what God DOES.”
Matthew 1:22-23 “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (close at hand).”
To access recent sermon series on this subject, visit here.
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