Summary: A sermon for Advent.
“Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Expect a Miracle” (based on Mike Slaughter's Book "Christmas Is Not Your Birthday)
What do you suppose God looks like?
Artists have given a shot at attempting to give us a physical picture of God in countless ways.
Centuries before Jesus’ birth the prophets spoke of the Messiah as:
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.”
Still, what this Messiah would look like and what His mission would be were diverse and contradictory.
This is one of the reasons why many people didn’t recognize Him when He did come.
What is your mental picture of God?
What do you think God is like when you are praying to God?
Is God a critical, condemning judge or a merciful, loving parent?
Does God favor some people over others, or does God love every person the same?
Like I said, Jesus wasn’t what most folks expected.
Everything about Jesus’ life stood in stark contrast to worldly values.
Jesus arrived on the scene…
…not in great strength but vulnerable and weak.
He was not born with a “silver spoon” in His mouth, but in a cave for animals.
Jesus was a Palestinian Jew Who grew up in a community of marginalized and oppressed people.
As a matter of fact, Jesus spent the earliest years of His life as a refuge in Africa, running from political genocide.
And growing up He lived in a little village as a member of a working class family.
When Jesus got older, He resisted the world’s obsessions with wealth and power…
…and instead identified with the weak, the powerless, the widows, the orphans, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers.
He didn’t condemn sinners but defended, forgave, healed and saved them.
So what does God look like?
God looks like Jesus!!!
He is Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”
In Jesus we see, not only the face of God but also the fullness of His humanity.
We see who you and I were created to be.
Jesus is God.
And that is the BEST NEWS there ever was and ever will be!!!
It’s been said that too often we view Jesus like Santa Clause—a genie in a bottle, here to fulfill three wishes.
All we have to do is name it and claim it, believe it and receive it.
Oftentimes, I think, we tend to create this Santa Clause Jesus in our own image…
…like a golden calf Messiah who promises to fulfill our every whim…
…an idol who supports our quest for material wealth outside a relationship with God.
Many of us even have a Savior who roots for our favorite football team!
Just think of the way we describe Santa Clause: "He sees you when you're sleeping...He knows when you've been bad or good!"
But Jesus is not some mythical watchdog Who judges our niceness or naughtiness and gives out rewards and punishments accordingly!!!
Jesus did not come shimmying down the chimney bearing gifts for good boys and girls.
God's gifts can't fit in a stocking, but must be received in our hearts!
It goes without saying that the "picture" we have of God has nearly everything to do with the shaping of our faith and values.
If our picture of God is distorted, then our perspectives on life will be skewed as well.
I'm not a Scrooge, but the magical, American, commercialized Christmas experience is unattainable!
Think about it.
We stress ourselves out and even go into debt to create that warm and fuzzy feeling both for our families and ourselves.
But that feeling doesn't last.
The real meaning of Christmas gets lost in the chaotic clutter of shopping, spending, rising debt, making exhausting preparations, and building stacks of gifts that most of us don't need or will not ever use.
How many of you still find shirts in your closet that you have never worn, given to you who knows how many Christmas' ago?
Could it be that in the chaos of the holiday season, we miss the true gift of Immanuel, God with us?
Alan and Deb Hirsch point out in their book Untamed: "Of all the ways culture influences the church, nothing has had more of an impact on us than that of a consumerist vision of society."
It's been said that the "idol of consumerism is one of the hardest to topple."
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement said that the wallet is the last thing to be converted in a person's life.
Has your wallet been converted to Christ?
Do you know that Jesus talked more about money and materialism than any other single topic except the Kingdom of God?