Every parent knows the frustration of buying Christmas gifts that sit unused while the empty boxes become the child’s source of joy. That expensive gift you put a lot of thought into for your loved one is now set aside and forgotten. The toy that your child yearned for over the months is suddenly left sitting in the corner unused. What is the most incredible thank you the giver can receive? It is seeing the gift becomes a regular part of the recipient’s life. As Christians, during Christmas, we know we celebrate the gift of Jesus coming into the world. And we realize that the most significant way we can show our thanks is by availing ourselves of that gift. How might God’s gift to us affect our daily lives?
When you throw a party, one of the first things you do is make up a guest list. The list would be about whom to include and whom not to include. God’s list of guests consists of some surprising people. God invited the lowest on the social ladder and welcomed the prominent and wise. That’s God’s idea of a party.
What are your Christmas traditions? Do you put up a Christmas tree? Do you give gifts? Do you have a gathering of family and friends on Christmas day? Have you ever noticed what we leave out of our Christmas traditions? For example, we generally leave King Herod out of our nativity set because we see him as the story’s villain. Yet as the villain, he helps us understand who we should be in contrast.
Mary, the young mother of Jesus, was as a woman powerless in the face of those who ruled the land. Still, in the Magnificat, Mary exults in a power that comes, not from a throne or any earthly authority, but from God. God’s powerful grace and love through Jesus is then claimed for the poor and oppressed.
The Emperor Augustus of the Roman empire was the most powerful man on the planet. He was also the wealthiest man in the Empire. He was called son of God, Savior of the world, King of Kings and Lord. Yet while Augustus was ruling, a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem would have far greater impact that Augustus. Eventually all the titles used for a Augustus would be used to describe Jesus. Today we honor Jesus and not Augustus.
Joseph frequently gets left out of the Christmas story. He doesn’t seem to be one of the main characters. Some people have even called him the forgotten man. But Joseph is talked about seven times in the Gospels as Jesus grows to be a man. Each time he is mentioned there is sorrow and difficulty. So how does Joseph find joy?
Mary came from an insignificant town named Nazareth. Most people who knew of Nazareth looked down on it. Yet God selects a girl from Nazareth to bring Jesus into the world. A young girl from a nowhere place plays a big role in the beginning of Christianity. God’s choice of Mary tells us about God’s preference to use the lowly and the least likely to do His work in the world.
The Bible is full of joy. There are more than 400 passages in the Bible about joy. But some of the passages in the Bible are about having joy in the midst of adversity. That seems to be surprising. How do we find joy if we are struggling? How do we find joy when there seems to be no hope? In this message we will take a look at finding joy in difficult places.
Sermon preached at Gold Canyon United Methodist Church in Gold Canyon, Arizona on December 24, 2018 by Rev. Fred A. Steinberg