Summary: Jesus entered the world not to demand our allegiance but to display his affection.
Title: Bethlehem’s Promise
Text: Philippians 2.5-11
CT: Jesus entered the world not to demand our allegiance but to display his affection.
FAS: In his book Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret of More, author and pastor Mark Buchanan illustrates God's love through the story of Tracy. He writes:
Tracy is one of the worship leaders at our church. One Sunday, as she sat at the piano, she talked about the difficult week she'd just been through. It was chaotic, she said—a mess of petty crises on top of a rash of minor accidents, all mixed up in a soup can of crazy busyness. It had left her weary and cranky. She got up that Sunday to lead worship and felt spent, with nothing more to give.
However, Tracy's 8-year-old daughter, Brenna, helped her gain new perspective earlier that morning. When Tracy had walked into the living room, the window was covered with scrawl. Using a crayon, Brenna had scribbled something across the picture window, top to bottom and side to side.
At first, it seemed like one more mess for Tracy to clean up. Then she saw what Brenna had written: love, joy, peace, patience, kindnece, goodnece, faithfulnece, gentlnece and selfcantrol (in Brenna's delightful spelling).
Mark writes: "Tracy stopped, drank it in. Her heart flooded with light. It was exactly what she needed to be reminded about: the gift of the fruit of the Spirit that arises, not by our circumstances, but by Christ within us.
And then Tracy noticed one more thing Brenna had written at the edge of the window: Love one another. Only Brenna, in her creative spelling, had written:
[Screen 2] Love won another."
As Mark concludes: "It's what Jesus has been trying to tell us all along. You were won that way. Now go and do likewise."
Mark Buchanan, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret of More (Thomas Nelson, 2007); submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky
The large box sat in the corner of the room for weeks. It showed up right after Thanksgiving and sat there untouched throughout most of December. It was about four feet tall. Unlike all the other boxes near the Christmas tree this box had no wrapping paper or bows on it. It had no name of whom it was for or who was giving it away. It was taped shut, tightly shut so the kids couldn’t break in. They tried. All they could do was ask about the box and no body seemed to know anything.
Mom was not impressed, she said, “Oh that’s just something dad has bought for Christmas. If anything, she figured it was the motor for his fishing boat he had been eyeing.
On Christmas morning the older girls of the family opened their presents while the two boys ran all over the place playing with their new toys they had just received. Mom noticed the big plain box was still unopened and as tight as a bank safe.
She asked her husband, “Aren’t you going to open the big box honey?”
Dad could not keep a straight face any longer. He began to smile. He gave a sideways look and his eyes had a twinkle. He said, “That gift isn’t for me, it’s for you.”
Everybody stopped at this point what he or she was doing. Dad winked at the kids. They all looked at mom. She was looking at dad. Something cool was about to happen. Mom stepped toward the box. Dad grabbed his camera and all the kids sat around the box.
Mom pried open the top of the plain box. She reached in and pulled out a bunch of paper. One armful at a time.
Dad said, “Keep digging dear.”
What’s in here? She asks, still pulling out paper Finally she hits something. A box within a box. She opens it to find another box. This happens a couple of more times until she reaches the smallest of boxes.
A ring box. The kids yell open it mom. With a tear trying to come out of her eye she looks at her husband and gives him the biggest smile anyone could get.
I don’t know if you get the romantic significance of a new ring. But there is a lesson to learn here: a remarkable gift can arrive in a not so remarkable package.
One did in this story.
One did in Bethlehem.
No one for saw the way God came into the world. Especially the unusual way he came. The way he came was just as important as the coming itself.
The manger is the message. At least this was the opinion of the apostle Paul.
You may ask why are you preaching on Paul today Jim. What about Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and the magi? Why are you preaching on a reformed Pharisee? We want to celebrate the birth of Jesus.