I’m going to be a prophet this Sunday and tell you that in 2022 you will have pain. The good news is pain may be helpful. One assumption here is that you didn’t deliberately do wrong. If we make wrong or sinful decisions, we will bear the consequences. Instead, I am talking about pain that enters your life due to no fault of your own. This is the most common kind of pain for those who are aggressively pursuing God‘s will. Generally speaking what moves us out of our comfort zone, apathy, is pain. During difficulty we learn the most about our character and what God wants to create in our lives. Our true character is revealed and changed through difficult and painful experiences. To make sure our pain has the most benefit, we need to count pain as beneficial. We need to know that when pain enters our life, it is not meant to hurt us ,but to help us become the kind of person that God wants us to be. This pain puts us on a better path for a better future. So this Sunday we will look in-depth at pain’s benefits. I cannot wish you a pain free new year but I can wish you a Happy New Year!
We all know Romans 8:28 by heart, but how does that work out in real life? Oddly enough the Christmas story has many instances of things that were not good. Only when God touched them did they work out for the good. Christmas is an illustration of Romans 8:28. We will learn how a series of unfortunate events, or at least untimely events, resulted in the most significant event in the Bible other than the crucifixion and the resurrection. So we will learn from historical examples in the Bible how God remains in control when it seems like things are out of control. God is sovereign!
The shepherds were in their fields watching their flocks by night. These shepherds wouldn’t seem to be major players in the first Christmas, but consider the following. They were among the first people to hear about the birth of Messiah. They got a visit from an angel. They immediately obeyed and went to Bethlehem. They were the first citizens of Bethlehem to worship at Messiah‘s birth. Since they saw angels, they were one of the few believers ever to have such an experience over the course of human history. So I think in terms of the role players at Christ's birth I would’ve been glad to join them. Being a former farm boy it would have been nice to get away from the sheep for a few hours! Maybe you could read the Luke chapter 2 story of Christ’s birth in preparation for the message. Pray for this Sunday and the Christmas Eve service. Pray for those who may not be regular attenders, that they will understand the significance of the birth of God in the flesh.
Obviously people respond to Christmas in different ways - ignorance, indifference, anger, sadness, stress, depression, joy, love, giving, etc. As we look into the New Testament this Sunday we will see many of those same attitudes in the people who were involved at the first Christmas. The usual suspects were not there to worship Jesus, the unanticipated people were there. What motivated them? Where were the people who should have been at the cradle of Jesus? The supernatural had very little to do with who worshipped. They worshipped a supernatural baby but it didn’t require supernatural power to worship the baby. So let’s look for some ways we can join the unlikely Christmas worshipers.
It’s Christmas time. There are certain celebrities that we associate with Christmas. Mary, the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeeper and the angels. Someone we don’t hear much about is Joseph. He’s what I call a silent witness. He does not utter a single word in the New Testament. And yet in spite of the fact that he is not the biological father of Jesus, Joseph has a major impact. Are you a person who thinks if you cannot speak well, then you can’t witness? If so I think you’ll find a lot of encouragement from Joseph’s life. His role proves you don’t have to be a celebrity or even have a speaking gift to go down in history. None of us have our names in the Bible. Joseph‘s contribution to the Christmas season is clear. We'll find out how clear this Sunday as we look at Matthew's gospel account of the Christmas story. We'll also light the second candle of Advent. We will also have communion. So this should be a Sunday filled with great opportunities to understand how we can be a normal carpenter or have a normal occupation, and still be part of God's story on planet earth.