Christmas, The beginning

Christmas, The beginning

Christmas has a way of being a very dark place. Today in 2019, December 22nd is the darkest day of the year. This is where it’s a hat. It usually varies a couple of days, but today it fell on this day, the darkest day I’ve lived in some frighteningly dark places in my life. I spent 15 years in New England. I don’t know if anybody else here has had such a horrible experience as to live North of us, but it’s not a place of light and happiness. Their tourist bureaus lie to you. It’s a place of a lot of fear. It’s a place where it doesn’t get better. The worst months for me always were January, February, March, and April, and then sometimes even into may because it was cold and it was ice, and everything was hard. Everything was breaking. Everything was expensive. Nobody’s in a good mood. That’s what it was like living in ups in new, in new England, but you know, it’s not just physical darkness.
There’s also spiritual darkness. There’s also emotional darkness that we can live in that just makes life miserable, makes it very hard. A lot of us live in a place where it’s hard, even if it’s not physically dark, it’s dark inside of our hearts. It’s dark because of what’s happening, and this is the promise of Christmas. The promise of Christmas is the light that comes from Jesus. That’s what changes everything. You can live in darkness, but you only hope for that day that everything will change. When I lived in New England, October, November, December, it was getting colder. It was getting darker just like it does here, except times ten, and I would be scared to death of January through may because I knew how ugly it was going to be. So as soon as Christmas time happened, I took a deep breath, and I realized that the darkness is over now, every day is going to be a little brighter, a little brighter, a little brighter.
Christmas was the turning point for me. If I could make it to Christmas and then in January, February and those months every day, as miserable as it was, I knew that every day was a little brighter than the day before and tomorrow was going to be a little brighter than it was today, and when you have nothing for you when everything is miserable, that’s what you have, and you know what? That was enough. I just kept dreaming and wishing for days to go by and getting a little bit better, a little bit happier, having those changes. Sometimes we live on this side of the turning point where Christmas, where the season is dark emotionally and spiritually for us. Sometimes it’s the breaking up of families. Sometimes it’s the randomness of diseases. Sometimes it’s the loss of relationships, and that can make Christmas a horrible place. Mary, the little girl we’re going to talk about today, lived in such an awful place.
We often see Mary portrayed gold and blues and a halo above her head. Mary wouldn’t recognize herself. Mary had a tough life. The Bible says that Mary was a servant. When we think of a servant, we might think of downtown Abbey or something down, something along those lines. It’s not a great life, perhaps as well as the people who live upstairs, but that’s far, far, far from where Mary lived. Mary lived under Roman oppression. Mary’s life had no value to those who were in charge of her. They didn’t care if she lived or she didn’t marry. I never had a day of school in her life. Why? Nah, there’s a wait and waste of time to educate a little girl, a Jewish little girl. There was no reason for that. They’re not used for anything other than to do hard work and to get pregnant.
Mary had a not, not a lot of expectation of her life. Mary also was very young, perhaps even 14 years old when everything changed for her life and everything turned around. It was into that situation that Mary had a secret assigned to her that probably not a lot of other people knew about, and if they did, I doubt anybody even cared. But Mary had a side to her that was about God. Mary believed in God, and Mary wanted to be close to God. Mary had already known that God makes a difference in people’s lives, and she was wondering, would God even make a difference in my life? And she had this love of God and this trust in his plan for her life that she didn’t pay that much attention to what might happen in the future. She knew she wasn’t afraid of it because she knew she had God, and it was into this environment that this situation that the angel appears to Mary, and he brings her what he calls good news to us.
It was good news for her aunt Elizabeth. It was good news. So many people, it might’ve been horrible news. I’ve often wondered why is it Mary’s parents mentioned, other people are mentioned, why not Mary’s Paris? Would that be an open group to go to? I would guess it is because of their reaction to what the angel said, and what happened was so negative that they didn’t want to put that in the Bible. That’s, I don’t know. I don’t know, but that’s my guess. It probably wasn’t very encouraging. It was probably pretty miserable. And I also feel bad for Joseph. So Joseph, who Mary pride didn’t even know that well was engaged to marry, and they’re getting ready to have their arranged marriage. Lots of questions. Is he going to be good? Is she going to be faithful? All these questions going on, and now Mary finds herself pregnant by an act of God, and everybody’s wondering why wouldn’t they wonder?
You would wonder. I would wonder, and I wouldn’t believe her either. I don’t know if you would. I wouldn’t. And I would be looking over at Joseph and Joseph is sitting there like a lot of people don’t look at me. I didn’t do it. And then they look over at Mary. Mary, why don’t you just tell us who did it? Here’s Joseph. He’s the likely one. It wasn’t Joseph. Well, you know that it doesn’t make her look any better. What do you mean it wasn’t chosen? How? How, how? How far have we gone? And so it’s just very hard. It’s a complicated situation and a sense of this place right here that we’re going to open up God’s word and look here in Luke chapter one. It’s a well-known passage, and we’re going to put it on the screen if you don’t have it on your, your cell phones or if you didn’t bring your Bible and if I’ll try to read it slowly enough for you to read along with us, but it’s good just to enjoy the rhythm of the story and to remind ourselves.
This is the turning point. In the six months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The Virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, greetings you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be, but the angel said to her, do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever, and his kingdom will never end. How will this be? Mary asked the angel since I am a virgin, the angel answered, the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you, so the Holy One to be born will be called the son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her six months for no word from God will ever fail.
I am the Lord servant. Mary answered, may your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her.
I noticed that several times the angel referred to Mary or told Mary that she was highly favored. That meant that she gave pleasure and joy to God. God received a happy surprise when Mary would step into his mind. God enjoyed Mary’s presence. God highly favored her. Why? Why did God highly favor Mary? Because God favors everyone who wants to be close to him, who is eager to discover his plan for their lives. That’s everyone. That’s you. That’s me. That’s all of us. We are highly favored because God wants to be known to us, and he wants his plan for our lives to take place. All of us are highly favored, and it all comes to a moment when we recognize that and turn to God, and we let that churning point happen in our lives. That’s what Mary found. That’s what Mary had.
I have a question about Mary. Mary. Why didn’t you just say no to God? You knew all the horrible things that you could imagine that were going to happen. Now’s your chance to say, God, find somebody else because haven’t we all said no to God? Haven’t we all felt God saying, I want you to do this, and our response to God is the wrong door? I don’t know who you’re asking, but don’t be looking at me. That’s something all of us had done, and indeed, Mary had that option, but instead Mary, in all of her fears knowing the good and the bad that might come from this, she turned around, and she decided to say yes. What a powerful, yes. What a world-changing. Yes, but it’s also a powerful and word change. World-changing. Yes. For us too. When we say that, I want to share with you three things that we can learn from the story.
Three things that we can that Mary can teach us. Number one, how many times have you not decided to do something because you are so afraid of what was going to happen? Yeah, the promise was there. The talk was there, but it was certainly better than what you were going to where you are today, but you decided to say no. You choose to stay where you are because of fear, not of what you knew, but what you were afraid would happen. Just things in your head that made you so scared. That’s how we stay in darkness because fear, fear constrains us and holds us and puts us into a small container and says, stay right here. Never move. And because of our fear or glad to do it, we can learn from Mary not to be afraid of where God is leading us. If this is what God wants to do, then it’s going to be good.
I can trust God. There’s a second thing that we can learn from Mary. Mary, just like us, received Jesus into her life. You and I, when we receive Jesus into our lives, we find a turning point, a turning point, and that’s what makes all the difference. You might say, but Mary, she still suffered a lot. There were many bad things. Yeah, there were, and when we come to Jesus and receive him, it’s not like only good things are going to happen to us either. Life happens. There’s a lot of pain, suffering that is thrown our way, but here’s the difference. You can have pain and suffering thrown your way in the darkness, or you can have pain and suffering thrown your way in the light of life. You can have your pain and suffering throne with Jesus standing with you to take you through this. And that’s what we found with Mary.
She was going to be okay, not because of how pleasant life was going to be or not, but because Jesus was with her and God’s plan was going to take place, and whatever happened, it was all going to come out the way she would, she would ever, ever hope it to be. And here’s a third thing we can learn about Mary. When she received Jesus, she overcame her fear. When she received Jesus, she began a new journey. That was the beginning. That was the very first day of her new life on her new journey right there. Did you know that of everybody in the Bible? Mary is the only one that knew Jesus from the moment of his birth all the way through is his entire lifespan here on earth. She was the only one other people came in and out of Jesus’ life, but Mary was there the whole time.
You can be sure that Mary had many beautiful experiences with God and raising Jesus. Many moments of great joy and happiness under the protection and guidance of God, but she also had some frightening moments. Again, not a few of those just like not very much longer after the Jesus being born, King Herod, the King of her area came in and killed every child in her town where she was living under the age of two years old in an attempt to also kill her son, to murder her son. Can you imagine knowing that a King of powerful King is out to murder your child? How? How would you sleep? You couldn’t sleep. How would you even eat? You wouldn’t be able to eat, but yet God was with them, and God guided them through that whole horrendous experience. Imagine Mary knew those mothers knew those children, and she knew how evil this world could be, but she also knew that if God is with me and if God’s plan is taken place in my life, things are going to work out.
They’re going to work out in a way that you’re going to be grateful for. She knew that she had that confidence in her life. You see, you and I, we can live in a very dark place. But what makes the difference is when you come, and you receive Jesus, and the turning point happens from darkness to life. That’s the key. And that’s what Mary had. Let me give you an example from, from modern days, from our day today, and I read a fascinating article by the old surgeon general of the United States, C Everett coop. And he told a story of a young mother that he had under his care when he was working as a surgeon, a pediatric surgeon in a hospital. And this mother came in, and he immediately began to realize the trouble she was in, that the baby she was carrying had a lot of physical problems, a lot of health problems.
And so he talked to them, and they decided that they’re going to do their very best and try to make it through this experience. And they prayed, and they felt that God was with them, but they didn’t know. It just felt hollow at that point. And the baby was born. And immediately this surgeon had to step in with drastic life-preserving methods, and for the next few months, it spread into a little over a year trying to keep the baby alive, trying to keep it alive, trying to keep it alive. It was a horrendous experience for these parents and a family. Fast forward several decades when one day by chance the surgeon C Everette Coop resin to the smother, and he asks her out, things are going and, and she’s telling them about her family. He’s listening and impressed and asks a question that he’s asked other people many times. It’s very curious about, he asked her, what’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in your life?
And she said when our son Paul was born with defects that required 37 surgeries. Yeah, that would be, that would be one of the worst. And in your life, what’s the best thing that ever happened in your life? And he said, she said, when our son Paul was born with defects that required 37 surgeries and what he said, C Everett Koop was, I understand that. I know that that’s sometimes the most painful things happen from our fears of what might life might be. But the reality is not our fears. The fact is the presence of Jesus with us. And what this mother went on to say was that when Paul was born, God moved into our home, and our family had a spiritual reawakening, and God gave Paul such a capacity to love us that we were enamored with them from the very first moment. And he loved us, and we loved him and his brothers and sisters. We are all so grateful. His oldest brother right now is in law school, and his dream is to graduate and become a lawyer so he couldn’t defend the rights of the disabled.
You know, all of us have experiences that we’re afraid of because of the darkness around us. But when you cross over that turning point and the presence of Jesus comes into your life, and he brings in that light, that completely changes everything. You know, the plan of God is often to edge it. There’s a great joy edge and a great pain edge. But what we learned from Mary is that you embrace both. You embrace both. Take Jesus for who he is as he is and take the plan of God for whatever it is for you. Just receive it and embrace it and ask God to help you live according to his purpose according to what his will is, and that is the most incredible way to live. That’s what gives us the greatest joy. That’s what we learn with Jesus. Let me remind you about the purpose of Christmas. The purpose of Christmas is about the light of Jesus. That’s the purpose of bringing in the light.
Jesus, right now, the Bible says is standing at the door of your heart knocking, and if anyone would open that door and invite him in, Jesus himself will come into your life and be with you, and you will transition from darkness to light. That’s Jesus’ promise. If you are in darkness today, don’t miss this moment today to receive Jesus. There’s a reason you are here is that God is saying, I want to give you hope, and the hope of this world is the light of life. It’s the light of the world. It is Jesus. And the first in John chapter one first John chapter one verse seven Jesus says, if you walk in the light as he is in the light, we will have fellowship with one another, and the blood of His son Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. What does that mean? That means if you receive Jesus, you are in the light, and as you journey with him in this light, his grace will change your hearts. He will enable you to love his plan and what he has for you, and your outlook and your perspective will change from fear to confidence, from doubt, to trust from uncertainty to certainty about what God is doing.
I’d invite you at this moment to just take a moment and pray with me if you would. If you are here to say, I want to receive what Jesus has for me and pray. Heavenly Father, I stand here before you at somebody standing in darkness with a lot of regrets. But on this darkest day of the year, I want to open up my heart to you and invite you to come in and to change my life from darkness to light and to take my hand and to journey with me. So where you want me to go and to the world that you are bringing me.
Thank you, Jesus, for changing my destiny. Thank you that I will never be alone again, and thank you for the promise of your word in Jesus. In your name, I pray. Amen. If you said that prayer, I’d like to ask you to let somebody know over on our welcome booth. Tell somebody so we can journey this together. That’s how we do it. This evening we have candles, and the candle is going to be lit as a representation of the light of the world. The light of Jesus coming into our lives and being spread out into our entire world. And so our pastors will be here, and I will light their candle as symbol symbolizing the coming of Jesus, and they will turn around, and they will light your candles. And when you receive the light, the candle, make sure that the candle that is lit does not bend cause that makes a mess. Keep it straight up and let the camera that is not lit bend to receive the fire and then hold it up. It’s straightforward, and let’s do that continually as we move forward.