Series: Unexpected Christmas
Thesis of Series: Christmas season is filled with surprises and the unexpected twists and turns that come with this holiday season. The original Christmas season was also filled with surprises from Heaven and the unexpected twists and turns from God. God loves doing the unexpected – so we should learn to expect the unexpected from the Lord – He loves saying “surprise”! Maybe even the word “Tada!”
The Challenge for us this Christmas Season: “Can you decide to expect the unexpected from the Lord this season?” or let me word it this way “Are you willing to expect the unexpected because God is predictably unpredictable this Christmas Season?”
Let me also ask: “Are you praying to be surprised by Him?”
We have learned about the unexpected news of Jesus conception by the Holy Spirit and all the challenges that went with this surprise for Mary and Joseph. We have talked about “Our Unexpected Part” in being a blessing this Christmas Season and last week we heard from Vernon of how Jesus was the “Unexpected Messiah.”
Sermon: Today we are going to center in on “The Unexpected Child.”
Thesis: God manifested himself personally through the baby Jesus. God choose through the power of love and grace to interact with us, and Jesus was the part of Him He sent. Jesus was the unexpected essence of God in the flesh filled with His power, presence and divinity but most people missed it.
Scripture Text: Philippians 2:9-11:
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Illustration from Marilyn Murphree at sermoncentral.com
In the movie “Talladega Nights” the race car driver Ricky Bobby asks the blessing over a family meal. He
said, “Dear Lord baby Jesus thank you for this bountiful meal from Dominos, KFC, and Taco Bell. But the
family objected to him praying to Tiny Baby Jesus and told him that Jesus was a man and he had a beard.
Ricky Bobby said it was his right to ask the blessing however he wanted to and that the Christmas baby
Jesus was the one he liked best. (Which Jesus do you like best?)
Then the family all chipped in as to how they pictured Jesus. Ricky Bobby’s sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, said they pictured him as a ninja fighting evil, another guest pictured him in a tuxedo tee shirt because he liked to party, Ricky Bobby pictured him as an 8 lb. 6 oz. baby in a manger because he liked the Christmas baby best. As the family squabble over how they thought Jesus looked, I (Marilyn) remembered a scripture in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.”
The key thought for today is Jesus did not stay a tiny baby for long in the manger. But many people still look at the unexpected baby Jesus and miss who this baby really was and even is today!
Apparently, his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). – The way Jesus was born really - I would have done it different – It would have been a huge deal – Jesus most likely would have come to earth in a glorious and powerful manner if I did it – but God likes doing the unexpected!
I. The unexpected child Jesus caught many people off guard!
a. The following thoughts are gleamed and adapted from - Unexpected Savior https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/come-thou-unexpected-jesus) We see Jesus breaking expectations throughout Scripture. Have you noticed this about Jesus and God the Father?
i. “Although the people expected the Messiah, the Son of David, to appear in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), they did not expect him to appear there as if by accident’ especially by fulfilling a census called for by a secular ruler.
1. The religious leaders would not have believed that God would use a secular ruler to fulfill Biblical prophecy. Nor would God have Jesus birthed (the Savior of the World) with Mary and Joseph – Joseph not being the father yet moved by a secular census to the right town to fulfill the 700 year old promise!
ii. “Although they expected the birth of a king, they certainly didn’t expect him to be born without dignity in a cave outside the city of David (Luke 2:4).
1. A king should have been born in palace – have you ever thought this is why the wise men went to see Herod the king – because maybe they thought this is where is a king is born not in a stable cave.
2. It’s also interesting the King of Israel did not even realize who Jesus was and even tried to kill him to protect his throne – how can you kill God in the flesh and outsmart Him?
a. Yet many think they can!
iii. “Although they expected him to be hailed upon his arrival, they did not expect shepherds and pagan magicians to welcome him while the religious leaders — who knew the prophecies by heart — completely missed him.”
1. The angels sang and announced his birth to the lowly Shepherds not the religious leaders!
a. They were clueless!
2. God called the wise men who followed the stars to come bless Jesus not the wise men of Israel, not their leaders or their very important people.
iv. “The Jews did not expect him to grow up in Galilee (John 7:52), especially not in Nazareth (John 1:46), nor did they expect him to grow up the son of a simple tradesman (carpenter).”
1. God protected Jesus from King Herod and placed Jesus where He would be safe and protected in Egypt until his death – I find it amazing that King Herod actually thought He could kill Jesus the soon to be King! How deceived people can become!
v. “When Jesus went missing for three days as a child, not even his parents expected to find him discussing theology in the temple with the rabbis (Luke 2:46–47).”
1. A teen who knew more than the religious leaders who said they knew God but did not. But God in the flesh was teaching them what truth looks like and is as a teenager/child.
b. Have you thought about all these unexpected things connections with Jesus the baby and child? But today I want us to investigate what was unexpected with the birth of Jesus? The Unexpected Child!
i. The place of the birth – it was expected and unexpected and the journey to get to Bethlehem was completely unexpected!
1. The divine directive by God behind the scenes with the calling of the census by a secular Roman Emperor at this specific time frame was done to fulfill a 700 year prophecy.
2. Focus Bible Passage shares the following material with us from https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/did-a-census-really-bring-joseph-and-mary-to-bethlehem.html
a. Scripture Luke 2:1-5: "1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child."
i. God orchestrated many surprises with the birth of Jesus – from the town – to the cave/stable!
3. Defending the faith means clearing Christ and the Bible of false charges when they arise. Here is one adapted from W. P. Armstrong's well-documented article "Chronology of the New Testament" in the international standard bible encyclopedia.
a. Classic Commentary: The census or enrollment, which, according to Luke 2:1, was the occasion of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, is connected with a decree of Augustus embracing the Greek-Roman world. This decree must have been carried out in Palestine by Herod and probably in accordance with the Jewish method--each going to his own city--rather than the Roman. While Josephus does not mention the Herodian census, Luke carefully distinguishes the census at the time of Jesus' birth as "first," (i.e. first in a series of enrollments connected either with Quirinius or with the imperial policy inaugurated by the decree of Augustus). The time of the decree is stated only in general terms by Luke, and it may have been as early as 727/27 or later in 746-8, its execution in different provinces and subject kingdoms being carried out at different times. Luke dates the census in the kingdom of Herod specifically by connecting it with the administrative functions of Quirinius in Syria. But as P. Quintilius Varus was the legate of Syria just before and after the death of Herod from 748/6-750/4 and his predecessor was C. Sentius Saturninus from 745/9-748/6 there seems to be no place for Quirinius during the closing years of Herod's reign. Tertullian indeed speaks of Saturninus as legate at the time of Jesus' birth. It is possible that the connection of the census with Quirinius may be due to his having brought to completion what was begun by one of his predecessors; or Quirinius may have been commissioned especially by the emperor to conduct a census in Syria.
ii. Christian author Francis Schaeffer wrote, "The best reason to believe Christianity is that it's true." God calls us to true belief, not blind faith.
1. Reading the story of the unexpected child Jesus should build our faith that nothing is impossible with God – can I say it again nothing!
c. The place where Jesus was born which fulfilled Scripture prophecy was the small town of Bethlehem – did you hear the word small town? It was not a thriving city a town of maybe 250 people.
i. Micah 5:2-5 (The following adapted and quoted from sermoncentral.com https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/o-little-town-k-edward-skidmore-sermon-on-christmas-86203) K. Edward Skidmore on Dec 13, 2005 - “Today I want to talk about one of the Christmas carols we sang this morning. It was 1865 when a well-known American Preacher named Phillips Brooks made a trip to the Holy Land. Years earlier --- in his mid-20’s ---Brooks had become pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. He recruited a salesman named Lewis Redner to serve as his Church Organist. The church grew from 30 to 1,000 in less than a year, partly because of Brooks’ preaching and partly because of Redner’s music. Brooks gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic speakers of his day. In fact, after the Civil War ended, Brooks was asked to preach the funeral sermon for President Lincoln. After preaching that sermon, Brooks felt so spiritually drained that his Church gave him a Sabbatical. Brooks made a trip to Jerusalem. On Christmas Eve he rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where he listened to a Choir singing in the Church of the Nativity. Brooks decided to write a Poem to express how it felt to stand near the place where Jesus was born. He entitled the poem: “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Later, Lewis Redner, the Organist, wrote a melody that turned the Poem into a Christmas Carol.”
ii. The first observation of the song is Bethlehem was a little town - yes small – even considered a tiny town.
1. I find it interesting how God likes to use something considered insignificant like this small town to birth the Savior of the World in!
a. O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, he silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
iii. How many of you grew up in a small town --- say… less than 10,000 people? 5,000 people? 1,000 people? 500 people? My, wife Kathy grew up in. A town called “Halma” population 100 the legend says the name of the town got its name when a mom and young boy got off the train at this town and he asked her upon looking at the tiny town “Is this Hell ma?” That’s the kind of town Bethlehem was. At the time of Christ it was a normal quiet night – the small shepherding community with a population of about 150-250 never expected who was being born in a stable that night until the angels were told by the angel and singing.
1. I have pastored in small towns my first church was in Grygla, Mn right, off the corner of the Red Lake Reservation population 200. I also pastored in Amery, Wi population 2,500 so we know about small town culture and life.
a. Well, for you who aren’t sure if you were from a small town, let me help you out. You know you’re from a small town when:
i. Everybody knows what you are doing or seek to find out – tell story of the Grygla Eagle.
ii. The city limits signs are both on the same post!
iii. The local Motel sleeps 6. (You’ll notice is says that in Bethlehem “…there was no room in THE Inn.” Bethlehem didn’t have a big tourism industry.)
iv. You know you’re from a small town when: You call a wrong number and they supply you with the correct one.
v. You don’t signal turns because everyone knows where you’re going anyway.
vi. The one-block-long Main Street dead ends in both directions. (That’s actually the case in Juneau, Alaska.)
vii. Driving cars up and down Main Street is a universal High School experience.
viii. A “Night on the Town” takes exactly 11 minutes. (By the way, if you’re getting these jokes, then you’re from a small town.)
ix. The New Year’s baby was born in October – Ashley was the New Years baby for Grygla, Mn she got a savings bond from the city she was born Jan 22 .
x. You have to name six surrounding towns to explain where you’re from.
1. Well, if you were giving Directions to Bethlehem, you’d say it was about 2 miles outside Jerusalem. Bethlehem may have been a sleepy little Suburb, but it did have some notable History.
iv. Skidmore notes the following about this small town:
1. Bethlehem is first mentioned in Geneses 35:16-19 because Jacob’s wife, Rachel was buried there. She died giving birth to Jacob’s youngest son. Before Rachel died, she named him Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow.” But Jacob changed the boy’s name to Benjamin which means “son of my right hand.” It’s interesting that both of these terms were used to describe the Messiah.
2. Bethlehem is featured again in the Book of Ruth. It was in Bethlehem that Ruth was “redeemed” and married Boaz. It was in Bethlehem that Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed --- who would be the grandfather of King David --- who was also born and raised in Bethlehem.
3. Years later, Bethlehem (along with all of Judea) was conquered by the Assyrians. The last person in David’s family line had been carried into captivity when the Prophet Micah made this prophecy: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel …” Micah 5:2
4. 700-year-old years later, this prophecy led the Wise Men to the birthplace of Jesus.
a. God still chooses small places for great things. Who would have guessed that anything important would happen in a little place called Cane Ridge, Kentucky. Cain Ridge was the site of a gigantic revival in the early 1800’s. That revival was the first of its kind. It lasted for weeks and was attended by over 30,000 people.
i. The Cain Ridge Revival was the trigger for a Spiritual Awakening that has particular significance for our Church. That Revival gave birth to what became the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in America today. Under the leadership of Barton Stone and Thomas Campbell this became the fastest growing Church group in the country by the Turn of the Century. And it all started at a little Crossroads called Cane Ridge.
ii. See Church History magazine!
d. The appearance of angels to the Shepherds (The following from https://medium.com/@petertownsenduk/the-angels-appearance-to-the-shepherds-833cc1ba77e7).
i. Luke 2: 8-20:
1. “There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.” When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
a. Scripture: “They came with haste and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. When they saw it, they evangelized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.”
2. The shepherds went to see Jesus and this was unexpected – Mary and Joseph did not expect visitors in the cave/stable after Jesus’ birth!
a. But the Lord sent them to them! To celebrate the most famous birth to ever hit the earth!
e. The appearance of the star Matthew 2. (The following from https://answersingenesis.org/christmas/the-star-of-bethlehem/)
i. The Purpose of the Star: First, the star alerted the magi to the birth of Christ, prompting them to make the long trek to Jerusalem. These magi were “from the East” according to verse 1; they are generally thought to be from Persia, which is east of Jerusalem. If so, they may have had some knowledge of the Scriptures since the prophet Daniel had also lived in that region centuries earlier. Perhaps the magi were expecting a new star to announce the birth of Christ from reading Numbers 24:17, which describes a star coming from Jacob and a King (“scepter”) from Israel.
ii. Was it Ethereal or Physical: Curiously, the magi seem to have been the only ones who saw the star—or at least the only ones who understood its meaning. Israel’s King Herod had to ask the magi when the star had appeared (Matthew 2:7). If the magi alone saw the star, this further supports the notion that the star of Bethlehem was a supernatural manifestation from God rather than a common star, which would have been visible to all.
iii. We need to clear up some Misconceptions: Contrary to what is commonly believed, the magi did not arrive at the manger on the night of Christ’s birth; rather, they found the young Jesus and His parents living in a house (Matthew 2:11). This could have been nearly two years after Christ’s birth, since Herod—afraid that his own position as king was threatened—tried to have Jesus eliminated by killing all male children under the age of two (Matthew 2:16). It may be that the star first appeared over Bethlehem when the magi were in the East (Persia).5,6 From that distance, they would not have been able to distinguish the exact location but would certainly have known to head west. They went to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem, a likely place to begin their search for the King of the Jews. It seems that the star may have disappeared by the time the magi reached Jerusalem but then reappeared when they began their (much shorter) journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, approximately 6 miles (10 km) away. This view is supported by the fact that first, the magi had to ask King Herod where the King of the Jews was born, which means the star wasn’t guiding them at that time (Matthew 2:2). And second, they rejoiced exceedingly when they saw the star (again) as they began their journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:10). After the magi had met with Herod, the star went on before them to Bethlehem and stood over the location of Jesus. It seems to have led them to the very house that Jesus was in—not just the city. The magi already knew that Christ was in Bethlehem. This they had learned from Herod, who had learned it from the priests and scribes (Matthew 2:4–5, 8). For a normal star, it would be impossible to determine which house is directly beneath it. The star over Christ may have been relatively near the surface of earth (an “atmospheric” manifestation of God’s power) so that the magi could discern the precise location of the Child. Whatever the exact mechanism, the fact that the star led the magi to Christ is evidence that the star was uniquely designed, made by God for a very special purpose. God can use extraordinary means for extraordinary purposes. Certainly the birth of our Lord was deserving of honor in the heavens. It is fitting that God used a celestial object to announce the birth of Christ since “the heavens declare the glory of God…” (Psalm 19:1).
f. The wise men from afar seeking him out years later (when he was around 2) , From https://www.heartlight.org/wjd/matthew/0108-wjd.html:
i. Thought from heart light: “God does the unexpected! There was no way anyone would suspect — much less expect — that Easterners would come to worship a Jewish king, especially a baby one. Even though King David was born in Bethlehem and there was a prophecy of another ruler from Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6), it was a little obscure, insignificant town. Also, no faithful Israelite would have ever believed astrologers would be led to the true God through their false, stargazing-worship. (Remember that acts of divination, including astrology to interpret signs from heavenly bodies, were steadfastly condemned under the law of Moses! Deuteronomy 18:9-15) But then, God doesn't have to do things the way normal Israelites, Gentiles, or modern people do them. Aren't we glad God is full of surprises! Aren't we glad he sent Jesus as his greatest surprise!”
ii. Challenge: Do not ever put God in a box or put parameters on what He can or can’t do – because He will never be found inside your box!
1. The religious leaders of Israel discovered this truth about the Lord! So did the world with the way Jesus was born!
g. The unexpected dream to leave the area for Jesus’ safety and go to Egypt.
i. Remember God is not caught by surprise like us – He knows all things and sent the angel to tell Joseph to flee to Egypt! And he told him when it was safe to return!
h. The unexpected reaction of King Herod in ordering the killing of all the boys under 2 in Bethlehem to protect His kingship.
i. Very sad story – heartbreaking!
II. What the unexpected child Jesus gave each of us?
a. A reminder of what the unexpected child brought for us:
i. Forgiveness of our sins – redemption!
ii. A relationship with God the Father
iii. Mercy, Grace and Love
iv. Deliverance from addictions and torment
v. 2nd chances and many more chances
vii. The Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit!
xii. Entrance to Heaven
xiii. Eternal Life
xiv. The ability to live a life filled with joy
xvi. I could add many other benefits that came to us from this unexpected child!
b. Story Illustration: One time Paul Harvey told the story about a three year old boy at the grocery store with his mother. She said sternly to the boy upon entering the store, “No chocolate chip cookies so don’t even ask!” She then put him in the little child’s seat in the cart and wheeled him down the aisles. He was quiet for a while until he got to the cookie aisle, he then stood up in the cart and said, “Mom can I have the chocolate chip cookies?” With a strong voice she said, “I told you not to even ask! No! Sit down and be quiet.” Finally arriving at the checkout lane, the little boy knew he had to do something. It was his last chance for cookies. He stood up and shouted as loud as he could, “In the name of Jesus may I have some chocolate chip cookies?” Everyone around him laughed and applauded that little boy in the store. Because of the generosity of the other shoppers the little boy and his mother left the store with 23 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. He was happy she just rolled her eyes. But this little boy knew who Jesus was and somehow knew there is authority attached to using the Name of Jesus.
So, let me ask again How do you view Jesus in manager today? Or what view do you have Jesus?
As I have read the Old Testament, I have discovered that God manifested himself to humanity in some amazing ways. For example: Thunder, Wind (tornado like), fire on the mountain, a burning bush, a pillar of fire, a glow, a majestic cloud that moved and shaded the Israelites, he used visions and dreams to manifest Himself, he showed up in a fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I could add others, but the point is in all these manifestations and revelations of Himself we never got a full picture of God, only a partial picture of Him but then He sent Jesus as a baby to reveal who He fully is!
Hebrews 1:3 states, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.”
Quote: from https://jeremyheight.com/blog/unexpected-jesus, “God constantly chooses unexpected people, unexpected journeys, and unexpected redemption.”
Today we witnessed two unexpected miracles – All which had their birthing through the power of the Holy Spirit who was sent by the Jesus to us and remember Jesus was born a baby in Bethlehem in a unexpected way – You see the miracles we heard and saw today are all connected back to Jesus unexpected birth and His willingness to be our Savior!
What do we need to know from the messages and testimonies today?
Answer: God is the God of the unexpected – so expect the unexpected!
Why do we need to know this?
Answer: Because God sent the baby Jesus out of love to save the world from their sin – and to show that nothing is impossible with God.
What do they need to do?
Answer: Ask God to surprise them this Christmas – with a Christmas miracle!
Why do they need to do this?
Answer: So that God can do the unexpected in their lives and so their faith can grow!