Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 (Christmas Eve/Christmas Day)
Title: Our Mess, His Message, God's Working Masterpieces
The Christmas Season is Messy. It is a time when we acknowledge our mess ( our sin). It is the time that we hear the Good News of Salvation and Redemption. It is the time when we allow God through the power of His Holy Spirit to continue His work in creating us to be His Masterpieces.
Grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world!
Families and individuals across the world are getting ready to or are already celebrating the joy of Christmas. Families have been gathering from every corner of the country to share Christmas together. AAA projects that over 100 million people in the United States alone will have traveled 30 miles or more to spend Christmas with their extended families. That's a lot of people moving in a short period of time.
Along with that all that travel and family time comes a great deal of disorder, disarray and mess. Actually, when you think about it, Christmas is a very messy holiday. Suddenly, you have more people than normal in your home all scurrying around. There are more dishes to be done and there is more to clean than normal. Then on top of that you begin to open all those Christmas gifts, packages and bags. It doesn't take long for all the paper, discarded boxes and piles of new clothes to clutter up and make a whole mess.
But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because behind all that paper, boxes and packages is the spirit of overwhelming love. After all, that is why we spend time together and share with one another in the first place. Christmas is one big agape love fest. We open our hearts and homes to all those who we love. We share our resources with those we love. We do all we can for one another ( driving through all kinds of weather, sleeping on floors, living out of a suitcase, eating more than we should, overbuying ect...) all because we love one another.
For a few minutes, I would like to invite you to join with me as we look at three important things that Christmas is able to touch and transform. Three things that remind us of the supernatural mysteries and miracles of Christmas. Those three things are - 1. Our Mess 2. Jesus' Message 3. The LORD's Working Masterpieces
I. Our Mess
All of our lives parallel the average home scene on Christmas morning. There is a great deal of noise, a lot of mixed emotions along with some disorder, disarray and mess. It's just a fact.
As we get older and more mature we do our best to be refined and hide our true emotions. We try to keep up a front that we have everything together. We don't want anyone to know our inner turmoil's or how close we are to having everything fall apart. We want everything to be perfect - our homes, our families and our own personal lives. We want everyone to think we have it all together. We want everyone to believe that we live in some kind of Norman Rockwell world when all too often we live in some kind of Orwellian world.
The reality is nothing around us is perfect. First off, our homes are not perfect. Even in the best kept homes there are dust bunnies all over the place, scratches on furniture and places that need to be touched up with some paint. Our meals are not perfect. The turkey or ham was a little too dry, the bread was a little too brown on the bottom and the pies did not come out perfect. Our decorations are not perfect. The wreaths need a little sprucing up, the tree leans just a little to the left or right and there is a light or two not burning.
Our families are not perfect. Someone just experienced a divorce while someone else just lost their job. One of them is suffering physically while another one is an emotional wreck. One of our loved ones is battling an addiction or depression while another one is simply a pain in the neck. Truth be told we wonder what has happened over the years to so many of our family members. Didn't everyone seem to have it together just a few years ago? At least that is what we would like to believe. Everyone does their best to be nice with one another but every now and then someone gets on everyone's nerves. The reality is our families are not perfect. At times they are a total mess.
Our own lives are not perfect. Oh, we try to put up a good front and hope no one can see behind our mask but the truth is we are not the person we hope everyone else sees. We know that if they really knew what we have thought, done or thought about doing they would be horrified. We know if they really knew what went on in our hearts and our minds then they might even be afraid to be around us. The truth is we are not perfect. We are a mess.
Our homes, our families and our own lives are messes. How could they not be? We have been born in to sin and we live in a sin broken world. That's the truth. How could our world be perfect when we all know the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? When they rejected God's Will everything changed for the worse. All of us since then have been in sin and are enslaved in sin. All of us come broken and damaged. We come from parents who were broken and damaged. We all suffer from the effects of sin - 1. A broken relationship with the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY 2. A broken relationship with ourselves 3. A broken relationship with others and 4. A broken relationship with the world/creation. We are a mess.
We need to remember today that the first Christmas was filled with disarray, confusion and a lot of messes. Think about what was going on at the time:
1. Mary's life looked like a mess. Here was this 12 - 14 year old young woman who claimed that the Holy Spirit is the one responsible for her pregnancy. Now, that's has all the ingredients to look like a big mess.
2. We have the quick marriage between Joseph and Mary that was done in order to save Mary's life and reputation.
3. Then we have this young married couple doing their best to get out of their home town of Nazareth.
4. Then we have Joseph not being able to get a great place for the couple to stay and Mary ends up having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. What a mess!
5. Finally, we have a bunch of smelly shepherds crashing in on the birthing party. Now, who doesn't want a bunch of smelly shepherds visiting you right after you have given birth? What a mess!
When you really think about all the things that happened that first Christmas it was all one big giant mess. Who in their right mind encourages a pregnant woman to travel 70 -80 miles walking and riding on a donkey those last few days in the first place? Was Joseph out of his mind, insensitive or was he worried about how his family or Mary's family would treat her and the baby? Was Joseph using the census as a way to get out of town to avoid potential family conflicts? I mean who or what exactly would a baby look like that has supposedly been conceived by the Holy Spirit? What if the baby turned out to be a girl?
I know we all read the story of what the angel said to both Mary and Joseph. But we read the story after the facts. Mary and Joseph had to take everything by faith. And just for a moment let's ponder some potential questions:
+What if Mary had been raped or had simply made a mistake and made up the whole angel business? What if it was all some figment of her imagination or the result of some kind of PTSD?
+What if Joseph's emotions had played a trick on him or what if he used the angel story to hide his and Mary's own lack of self-control?
+ What if Joseph loved Mary so much that he didn't care that she had been unfaithful and he simply wanted to get them out of Nazareth as soon as possible? Having to go register was a great excuse.
We don't like to think about such questions because we think to do so would be sacrilegious. But the truth is if someone today came up with the same story as Mary and Joseph's we would think that they needed to be committed. We would think that they were lying and trying to hide the truth. We probably would not give them the benefit of the doubt no matter what Elizabeth might tell us or anyone else for that matter. Common sense tells us that virgins don't get pregnant and the Holy Spirit doesn't go around conceiving babies. It's all a mess.
That first Christmas reminds us that all of human life is a mess. Sin has made all of human life a mess. But the Good News this morning is that in the middle of that mess comes Jesus. Jesus comes with the Message of Salvation/Redemption and Renewal.
II. Jesus brings us the Message of Salvation/Redemption/Renewal
In the middle of all of this mess God brings the Message of Good News. It is the message that the angels shared with the shepherds. It's the message that Gabriel shared with Mary. It's the message that the angel shared with Joseph. And it's the message that Jesus shared with his disciples and with all who would listen.
It's the message of salvation. Listen again to verses 10 - 12
"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD."
Good News - Great Joy - For All People - A Savior - Christ - the LORD
Today, in middle of our messes - our world, our nation, our homes, our families and even our won messes the LORD JESUS has come with the message of Good News, the message of Great Joy and a message for all People. He has come to be our Savior, our Messiah and our LORD. He has come to lead us out of the mess and penalty of sin. He has come to give us power over sin. He has come to bring us new life along with the infilling presence of His Holy Spirit.
From the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew to the end of the Gospel of John we read story after story of how Jesus immersed himself in the chaos and messes of human beings to bring about redemption, renewal and restoration. John tells us in John 3:17 that Jesus did not come to condemn us but that we might be saved through him. Jesus did not come to destroy us but to redeem us.
Jesus tells us that He came to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus came to be the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World and the Bread of Life. Jesus came to be the Gate, the Vine, the Resurrection and Everlasting Life. Jesus came to rescue all of us from the messes of sin. Jesus came to bear our burdens and bring us a life of peace and comfort. Jesus came to die for us, to forgive us and to redeem us today. Jesus came to fix our messes.
It is fitting therefore that Jesus came through a mess. The mess of an unexpected pregnancy. The mess of a messed up marriage. The mess of overwhelming embarrassment and rejection by all those around Mary and Joseph. The mess of having to get away first to Bethlehem and then to Egypt. The mess of the Shepherds and later the mess of the Wise Men.
It is fitting that Jesus came that way because we need to know that through Jesus all people can experience salvation. No matter how much we have sinned. No matter how much we have forsaken God and family. No matter what we have done none of us are not beyond the saving and sanctifying touch of Jesus. We need to hear that again today - No matter what we have done or what anyone else has done none of us are beyond the saving and sanctifying touch of Jesus. Let me repeat that - No matter what we have done or what anyone else has done none of us are beyond the saving and sanctifying touch of Jesus Christ. We need to take that to heart for ourselves and for others as well today.
We need today to rest and share the message of Jesus - the Message of Salvation - the Message of Redemption - the Message of Renewal and the Message of Restoration. It is that message that makes Christmas the season of Joy, Peace, Hope and Love. It is that message that makes Christmas a holy day for all of creation. It is that message today that give us a reason to live, a mission to fulfill and a life to live out. It is that message today that calls the Church to be the Saved and Sanctified Body of Christ doing all it can to lead people to Christ and to help them grow towards maturity in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
For it is in receiving that message that we see the reality of Christmas. The reality of Christmas is watching God create masterpieces out of the lives of fallen human beings. The reality of Christmas is watching the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our world today.
III. God's Working Masterpieces
Three of the greatest artistic masterpieces according to most art critics include Leonardo de Vinci's painting of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper along with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Three of nature's greatest masterpieces include the Redwoods of California, Victoria Falls near the border of Zambia and the Rainbow Mountains of China. But none of those can compare with the masterpieces that the LORD is able to create in our human lives.
The Bible is full of story after story of how the LORD is able to take the mess of humanity and transform it into a masterpiece of glory and honor. Take for example the story of Nebuchadnezzar that we find in Daniel chapter four. The story take place sometime after the Fiery Furnace event. Nebuchadnezzar is warned in a dream about the danger of personal arrogance and pride. He is warned that he should give God the glory and honor for his power and position. However, Nebuchadnezzar doesn't heed God's warning. Instead, he becomes even more arrogant and prideful. He believes that he and he alone is responsible for his great kingdom, his majesty and glory.
Then one day as he is glorifying himself the LORD reverses his situation. In a matter of minutes King Nebuchadnezzar begins to lose his mind. He becomes a stark raving lunatic. He is so deranged that he has to be expelled from his own kingdom. He seeks refuge in the wilderness where he begins to live like an animal. The Bible says that "his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers and his nails were like bird's claws." That means that his hair grew to around 15 inches in length and his fingernails grew to more than 2 inches long. He looked and acted like a wild man. Through his own prideful arrogance King Nebuchadnezzar became a mess. Everyone thought he was beyond hope.
But then we read verses 34ff where the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY allows Nebuchadnezzar to repent. He allows Nebuchadnezzar to regain his senses. Nebuchadnezzar is allowed to retain his throne and his kingdom. Listen to his words recorded in verse 37 - "Now, I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble."
King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to create a masterpiece all by himself and for himself. He thought he could do it on his own. He thought he did not need the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. That is the prideful sin of all mankind. From the time in the Garden to the Tower of Babel to Nebuchadnezzar to even our own Great Republic we have so often attempted to do things in our power and strength. We have attempted to create our own masterpieces of human society. But over time each of those human masterpieces have fallen apart. They fall apart because sinful man will never be able to create a beautiful life in his own image.
But when Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before the LORD the LORD was able to take the ashes of his life and make something beautiful. Now, that did not happen until his life was ashes but the reality is that when we allow the LORD to burn away the dross of our lives He does not leave us an ashen heap. He takes those ashes and creates a supernatural masterpiece that is infilled with His Holy Spirit. He did that for King Nebuchadnezzar and He will do it for you and me today.
One of my all time favorite scenes in the movie Joshua (2002) surrounds a piece of glass that is shattered against the floor of Joshua's woodshop. It happens when a woman named Maggie is so angry with life that she smashes this glass vessel into a hundred pieces all over the floor. She tells Joshua that her life is like all of that broken glass. It is all broken and there is nothing that can rescue it or redeem it. She storms out of his work shop hating herself and life. Everything is a mess.
Later on in the movie Joshua's friend, Father Pat Hayes is talking with Maggie and hands her this beautiful glass sculpture. Before going to Rome, Joshua wanted to make sure that Maggie got this beautiful glass sculpture. He made it especially for Maggie. It was been made from the same glass that Maggie had thrown against the floor. Joshua had picked up all the broken pieces and under his power and presence recreated all that brokenness into something beautiful and whole. Maggie couldn't believe her eyes. Holding that glass sculpture she began to understand that her life could be made whole. She began to understand that God can take all of her brokenness and recreate in her one of His masterpieces. She began to understand that her life could be whole.
My friends, that is the beauty, the majesty and glory of Christmas. The LORD JESUS HIMSELF came down in the middle of all our mess with the message of salvation, redemption and renewal. He came to take all the brokenness that we have created in our lives and reshape all of it. He came to put within us His Holy Spirit who would then begin the work of taking all our brokenness and transforming it into something beautiful.1
Today, many of our homes have some messes. Many of our lives have messes. We can try to deny it, hide it or even fake it. But the truth is the truth. The Good News is Jesus came to be our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus came to take all of our brokenness and through the power of His Holy Spirit renew us and restore us into God's masterpieces.
Today, as we close our service we want to invite you and your family to the Table of Our LORD. It is a table that has been uniquely designed for all of us broken messes. It is a table of grace, mercy and love. We are able to come and receive because we have been invited. We have been invited by the LORD JESUS CHRIST. We come with our hearts, our minds and our souls reaching towards Jesus acknowledging Him as Our Savior and LORD. We come confessing our need for His grace and we come to be united to Him and to one another through the transforming presence of His Holy Spirit. We come in obedience as He continues to make us His Masterpieces. We come and bow down before Him in full surrender receiving the symbols of His body and blood.
This is the message of the LORD for the people of the LORD! Praise be the LORD!
1There is an amazing website that has story after story of how the LORD has done and is doing that same thing in people's lives all over the world. You can find it at http://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/watch/archives/o/58/t/testimonies-of-changed-lives.
I want to thank Matt Wade for providing some of the thought behind this sermon. Thanks Matt!