Summary: An advent series focused on our expectations at the Christmas season.
What Difference Does Christmas Make
December 2, 2018
It feels so strange for me to think that the Christmas season has officially begun. Yes, according to stores that started on November 1st, the day after Halloween. To be honest, I’m not really into listening to Christmas music yet. Singing the songs at church is good, but listening on the radio . . . I’m not there yet. I may get there on December 23rd. That’s just me.
So, as we have moved into this season what are you expecting? What are you looking forward to this season? Is there anything that you are hopeful about? With that in mind, for the next 4 weeks, we’re going to be looking at Christmas Expectations!
Most often, when it’s Christmas time, we’re looking forward to the good things. We’re hopeful there will be those magical moments, the family get togethers, friends coming together. In some ways we envision a Norman Rockwell painting. These all look like magical moments.
A George Bailey reunion like in “It’s a Wonderful Christmas.” A family having fun with Christmas decorations. Then there’s that great family who’s really happy to see one another. And dad showing some love to mom.
But . . . that’s not what always happens. We end up making a mess of the Christmas tree, and just like this clerk from 1947, we are exhausted too. The hoped for joy, becomes filled with disappointment. The kids have a melt down because they didn’t get a new PS4, but got socks and underwear. There’s Uncle Frank who always brings up past hurts. Aunt Agnes is always angry, and makes everyone uncomfortable. People are walking on egg shells . . . and you dread the family event and even Christmas. And there’s that dreaded gift that says,
“Some Assembly Required!”
Now, I don’t want this to be a downer sounding sermon or series, and hopefully you will be filled with God’s presence and love as we move through this advent series. But we also need to be real about our expectations!!
Sometimes, there’s a gap between our expectations and our reality. Sometimes we experience more of a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. As a result, we may ask some questions about Christmas, it’s relevance in our world, wondering where the real hope and joy is to be found. And ultimately, why? Why Christmas, what’s it really all about? And these are very real questions, and really they’re the cornerstone for Jesus coming into the world.
And we don’t realize that some of these questions were being asked at the very first Christmas. Things didn’t necessarily go according to plan for Mary and Joseph. We think of them smiling and filled with joy. And they were, but they expected to be at Bethlehem Memorial Hospital, not a barn with animals all around them.
So, what difference does Christmas make? What’s the real and true difference that God offers us? To start to answer that, I want to look at the story of Mary as she visited her cousin Elizabeth.
We see this young teenage girl who is pregnant and not married. Mary sings a song called the “Magnificat.” That’s the Latin translation of "magnifies," which is how Mary starts this song.
In this passage, Mary shows us a few things. Firstly, She speaks about a very personal God. Listen to the first 4 verses ~
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for He has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. – Luke 1:46-49
Isn’t it amazing what Mary’s saying!? She’s an unwed, pregnant teenager, with a bizarre story, it could be a new reality TV show, and here she is praising God for choosing her! This sounds so real and authentic. It’s like this praise is coming from deep down in her soul. She pours out her heart, giving thanks to God.
I’m not really sure many of us would have felt like Mary did. Mary’s a nobody, she’s a woman, she’s not married and she’s pregnant. That wasn’t something you wanted in those days.
People know enough about the birds and the bees that Mary couldn't just say, "Hey! Good news! I'm pregnant, but don't worry, no man was involved!" That sounds crazy today and had to be absolutely ridiculous then. Would you believe your teenager with that kind of story?
Mary was fully aware of her place in the world. She's an unwed, engaged, pregnant teenage girl, living in the sticks of Nazareth - - and she’s got some crazy story about how she got pregnant.