Summary: The story of Christmas is wrapped around people... real life people. This four-sermon-series looks closely at this special cast of characters in an attempt to find our stories in theirs. Alliterated and expository, with PowerPoint available if you e-mail
Christmas: Cast of Characters (1)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/2/2012
Each December as Christmas gets closer and closer the story of Jesus’ birth is told many times and many ways. Maybe you enjoy reading the story from the Bible with your family on Christmas Eve, or attending a Christmas Cantata, or a living Nativity scene. One of my favorite retellings of Jesus birth is the movie, The Nativity Story. I think it captures the feel of the ancient world and brings the cast of characters to life.
The story of Christmas is wrapped around people—real life people. Servants, shepherds and sages. Common people whose stories are marked by scandal, stumble, and spectacle. And in the midst of them all… hovering over them all… is the hero of it all. God. Shaper. Sovereign. Savoir of sinking hearts. God. Passing out high callings, second chances, and moral compasses to all comers and takers. These were common people in the hands of an uncommon God. If we look closely enough at this cast of characters, we find our story in theirs. We find our hope where they found their hope—in the hands of an infant God laying in a manger.
Over the next few weeks, leading up to Christmas, I’d like to pull back the curtain of your imaginations and introduce you to the cast of characters filling out the greatest stage in history. And, of course, as God was passing out parts in his Nativity story, he gave the female lead to a young girl, named Mary. Mary’s importance in the story of Christmas can hardly be overstated.
In fact, I heard recently about a small boy that was writing a letter to God about the Christmas presents he badly wanted. “I’ve been good for six months now,” he wrote. But after a moment’s reflection he crossed out “six months” and wrote “three.” After another pause he crossed that out and put “two weeks.” There was another pause and he crossed that out too. Then he got up from the table and went over to the little nativity scene that had the figures of Mary and Joseph. He picked up the figure of Mary and went back to his writing and started again: “Dear God, if ever you want to see your mother again…!”
As the mother of Jesus, Mary is better known than any other woman in world history and has held a place of highest honor since those days of the manger in Bethlehem. But what was her life like? Who was she really? And how can we find our story in hers? Let’s start this morning by considering Mary’s situation.
• MARY’S SITUATION
In the first chapter of the book of Luke, the Bible says, “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” (Luke 1:26-27 NIV).
Although this is all the background information we’re given about this young woman, we can learn quite a bit from it. The fact that Mary lived in Nazareth means that she came from humble beginnings. Nazareth wasn’t known for much. It was a small, insignificant town on the outskirts of a Roman garrison. It boasted a few bars and a red light district that offered a little weekend entertainment to imperial soldiers. Needless to say, Nazareth wasn’t the brightest star in the ancient Near East.
Mary was pledged to be married and still a virgin, which means she was probably no more than 15 year old and she came from a godly family. Mary was living a simple, small-town, secluded life when suddenly everything changed. She was shoved from the shadows to center-stage when an angel appeared to her and said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30-32 NCV).
Suddenly God had pulled the rug out from under Mary’s quiet little life. Was this good news? Absolutely. Was this terrible news? Absolutely. How was she going to explain this to her folks? To Joseph? Who would believe it? Joseph didn’t. He was ready to write her a certificate of divorce and send her packing. Her parents actually did pack her bags and sent her to her cousin Elizabeth’s house for three months. 15 years old, pregnant, and unmarried—can you imagine what it must have been like for her showing up to church on Saturday morning?
While none of us have ever been in Mary’s shoes, I’m sure some of us can relate. You’ve been in difficult situations. Maybe you’ve found yourself in situations that resulted in broken relationships or lost reputation. Maybe there have been times when you had a story no one would believe or when you were ashamed to show your face in church. Or maybe you can relate to Mary’s fear and anxiety. We’ve all been in over our heads before. Maybe you’ve felt overwhelmed by the hand God has dealt you.