Summary: An Advent sermon, following the theme of an adventure: the plan, the journey, the discovery.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do you ever examine the deeper meaning of commonly used words? Take the word “discovery,” for example. It is fairly common in our vocabulary. Someone may say, “The other day I discovered a six-month old tub of cottage cheese in the back of my refrigerator. It had grown a layer of penicillin over it.”
Another will say, “After balancing the checkbook, I discovered we had less money in our account that I thought.” Still another will share, “Looking in the mirror, I discovered I had wrinkles I never knew existed!”
We use the word “discover” or “discovery” fairly often. Now, to examine the meaning of words, we go to a dictionary or an encyclopedia. There, the word discovery is described as “detecting or learning something previously unknown or foreign to one’s culture. Discovery observations are acts in which something is found and given a productive insight.” In other words, a discovery is not just finding something but also doing something with it.
By the way, the encyclopedia adds, “serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.” That’s like finding the car keys while looking for your reading glasses. So, from now on, we won’t call such things “senior moments,” we will call them serendipities.
Christopher Columbus came upon an unknown continent while looking for an easier way to reach India. Captain James Cook found Hawaii while zig-zagging the Pacific. I am not sure if today’s Hawaiians would consider that event a serendipity, but the truth is, places and things don’t remain hidden forever.
Well, what have you discovered or serendipited lately? Have you stumbled upon a pot of gold in your backyard? Maybe we would settle for something more modest like discovering old family pictures in a mislabeled box stored in the garage.
For a reporter, the most exciting endeavor would be discovering a revelation of truth about a mystery – discovering some secret document that will shed light on something previously hidden. I can’t think of a worse torture than preventing a reporter from sharing such an information. Such discoveries usually make breaking news and sensational headlines.
We know of one discovery that changed the course of humankind forever, yet did not make immediate sensational headlines. This is, of course, is the story of Christmas, the story of God breaking into history through the birth of a little baby in Bethlehem’s stable. This breaking news was not aired by CNN or delivered to the high and mighty, but by a report of a heavenly angel to some lowly shepherds huddled around a campfire. Later, God send other messengers who shared the good news of great joy to everyone who would listen.
The Apostle Paul would have made a fine reporter. He was eager to share the discovery of the gospel that he encountered in his own life, and he also taught courageously what to do with the discovery, how to give it the “productive insight” as the encyclopedia puts it.
This is what he wrote in the Letter to the Colossians: God gave me the commission to present to you the Word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints ….. so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
If you want to discover something great, then come to Bethlehem and welcome Jesus into your heart, for this life-changing event is repeated every time Christ is born in someone’s heart and life gets a new management.
In this season of Advent, we have looked at God’s plan for the great adventure. We have studied Old Testament prophecies that promised the coming of the Messiah, Savior. We have been on a journey to Bethlehem to find Him. The discovery is before us. We have found Him and we are now celebrating His arrival, just like we do every Christmas. But no discovery is complete until we give it that “productive insight.”
There are many people out there who will celebrate Christmas without the “productive insight.” They will celebrate a holiday, have a day off from work, and have a good time with their family. But their celebration will be without the understanding that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Yes, there are people out there who will acknowledge that such a person lived; maybe they will even agree that He was born in Bethlehem and died outside of Jerusalem, but that’s as far as they will be willing to go, and their discovery will be rather poor and incomplete. It will lack the productive insight.
It’s like this: suppose you would like to try prospecting for gold in the eastern Sierra. In anticipation of a discovery or serendipity, you would drive to a place like Independence, and take a road leading west, as far as you can go. Then, within the sight of Mt. Whitney, you would test the dirt near every creek. Finally, your pan shows promising color. You discovered gold! What would you do then? Say, “Oh, that’s very nice,” and walk away? I don’t think so! You would rush to the nearest BLM office and file a claim, because without a claim the discovery isn’t of much use.