Summary: When you think about it, the thing that really makes Christmas for us is not what we expect but what we don’t expect. The most memorable Christmas’ are those when something unexpected happened. Christmas isn’t about what we expect; it’s about what we don’

The Surprise of Christmas

Matthew 3:1-12

What are your expectations of Christmas this year? There is no season of the year so full of nostalgia and ripe with expectation than Christmas. It takes a Scrooge, with a heart of stone, not to become excited about the approach of this joyous occasion. We can build up such impossible hopes and dreams that it can’t possibly fulfill them. That is one reason people often feel depressed when Christmas is over. When you think about it, the thing that really makes Christmas for us is not what we expect but what we don’t expect. The most memorable Christmas’ are those when something unexpected happened. Christmas isn’t about what we expect; it’s about what we don’t expect. We see this in the Christmas story. Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t expect to have a baby in their old age. Mary didn’t expect to become the mother of the Son of God. Joseph didn’t expect his young bride to be to become pregnant. Herod didn’t expect to be disturbed by news of the Messiah. The shepherds didn’t expect to see angels in their fields. The Magi didn’t expect to find the Savior of the world born in a manger in a poor little country village like Bethlehem. God surprised everybody that first Christmas. And Jesus kept surprising people. He was a Messiah who ate with sinners and hung out with common folk rather than the power brokers of his day. He came not to be seated on a throne or live in a palace but to die on a cross. He turned the world upside down with his teachings when he said things like, the meek shall inherit the earth, the first shall be last and the last first and love your enemies.

The real surprise of Christmas is not just how the Christmas story unfolds but who Jesus is and what he came to do. It’s one reason people have such a difficult time understanding the real Jesus. Kevin DeYoung writes, The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That's why Jesus' question to his disciples is so important: "Who do you say that I am?" The question is doubly crucial in our day, because no one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus—and not every Jesus is the real Jesus…

Too often, our understanding of the messiah and our expectations are rooted in our life circumstances, our problems, struggles and difficulties, more than they are in the very words of Jesus and who He revealed himself to be. As a result, we want a personal Messiah rather than a Messiah for all. “Author Jeanne Zornes writes, “As a new Christian, I presumed Jesus’ main job was taking care of me. He led me to a job, to roommates to share apartment costs and a car that ran. But after awhile, my tastes got fussier. Like the Israelites waking up to manna every morning, I was tired of the same old, same old. I wanted a home with more privacy, a more interesting yet less stressful job and a shinier new car. My list continued to grow. I wanted Jesus to perk me up when I was down, remove my difficulties and make a living a whole lot easier. When those things didn't come, I felt as if Jesus had walked away from me. What I didn’t realize was that He had put loving distance between us, just as he did with the crowd that night knowing that they wanted to force him to be king. For me and for them, it took a stormy night to point out why those expectations were off base.”

Kevin DeYoung writes “And then there's Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham's chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Yahweh in the flesh; the one to establish God's reign and rule; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.”

In Jesus’ day, there was a widespread hope and yearning for the coming of the Messiah and a gross misunderstanding of the purpose and mission of the Messiah. Reza Aslan writes in his book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”: “The Jews of Jesus’ time had conflicting views about the role and function of the messiah….Some believed the messiah would be a restorative figure who would return the Jews to their previous position of power and influence. Others viewed the messiah in more apocalyptic terms, as someone who would annihilate the present world and build a new more just world upon its ruins. There were those who thought the messiah would be a king and those who thought he’d be a (high) priest” who would correct the corruption and false worship occurring in the Temple. So which Jesus are you expecting this Christmas and what are you expecting him to do?

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