Preaching Articles

As the season of Advent begins, I wanted to “rethink Christmas,” looking at the story of
God’s salvation plan—the story of Jesus from creation to His birth, from Genesis to the
Gospels—from different perspectives and ask ourselves some poignant questions. To
start, have you ever considered the holiday as our opportunity to testify to our faith?
The other day in my Bible study class, we discussed Christmas decorations and how so
many have Santa and reindeer on their lawn instead of a Nativity, star, or
angel—something that truly represents our celebration. It’s time we put our faith out
there—yes even on the lawn! I actually have a cross on my front lawn. When you drive
up to my garage you can’t miss it. It’s there year round. It’s one of my ways to make a
statement about who and whose I am. Now I’m not saying that having a Santa on your
lawn is bad—I like Santa as much as the next “good little girl or boy”! However, is
Christmas about Santa or Jesus? What message do we want to send to a world that is
in desperate need of the hope, joy, love, and peace that is born on Christmas Day?
What do we want to teach our children? Jesus is the greatest gift of all!
Now, have you ever really thought what it must have been like for Mary (read Luke
1:26-38)? She’s going about her young life, betrothed to a man named Joseph, and
things are going along just fine. Then in an instant, God took whatever plans Mary had
for her life and turned them upside down and inside out. Through the angel Gabriel God
told her that she was going to have a baby; it didn’t matter that she was a virgin—yep,
gonna have a baby. This had to be hard to hear on so many different levels, but
nonetheless, Mary essentially said, “Sure, whatever you want God.” Good thing, Mary,
because God wasn’t asking. This is another case of God knowing her heart. He knew
she was faithful, obedient, and that she loved Him. He knew that she would trust Him
even in this. Mary was favored by God and God gave her one of the hardest jobs in the
world—being pregnant before marriage, becoming the mother of God, and ultimately
watching Him die on the cross. There is something about Mary that enables her to do
this—it’s her deep, abiding love and trust for God. Do you love and trust God that
much?
When we hear about the Christmas story, we extol the selfless virtues of Mary, the
mother of God, but Joseph seems to be left in the shadows (read Matthew 1:18-25). I
have to wonder if, in some ways, this whole idea of a virgin birth was more difficult for
him to embrace than for Mary. I have to wonder if he ever had any thoughts about Mary
that were less than kind. I wonder, as her belly swelled with child, if he ever resented
the situation. He obviously was a kind man because he had made the decision not to

make a big deal out of her pregnancy so she wouldn’t get into trouble. He would just
quietly leave her. However, once the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream, called
him by name, and told him what to do, he did it. There seems to be no doubt that it was
the Lord who gave him this commandment. Joseph obviously was a faithful man and
God knew his obedient heart. Even though he was called by God, the situation was a
difficult one, but Joseph trusted God. We don’t read about any questioning/doubting
thoughts from Joseph, but being human, I’d venture to guess that they were there. Even
so, Joseph was faithful and willing to sacrifice his life to the will of God. Christmas is a
reminder that, as we receive from God the greatest gift of all—Jesus—we are to offer
Him the gift of ourselves. What would that would mean in your life, to offer yourself
fully?
Finally, when we read Luke 2:8-16, the Christ child’s birth has been celebrated and the
event that changed the world has been glorified once again. The question for us is this:
“Has Christmas changed us?” As we read about the shepherds who were caring for
their flocks being visited by the angels telling of great news, we hear the Gospel
proclaimed once again. The shepherds immediately responded to the Gospel by going
to see this thing that had happened. They left the comfort of their normalcy in response
to the call by the angels.
How will you respond to this good news of great joy that is for all people—that is, for
you?

Rev. Deanna M. Young is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a wife,
mother, sister, grandmother, and senior pastor at a church in Houston, Texas. She is a
second career pastor with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from Sam Houston State
University and her Master’s of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at SMU.
Married to over 40, she enjoys leading retreats, preaching, teaching, writing, and
painting—but most of all, spending time with her large family and friends.

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