Sermons

Summary: God Interrupts the Mundane to Bring about the Magnificent

The January 13, 1992, issue of Fortune Magazine featured the "Biggest Business Goofs of 1991":

In an act of corporate cooperation, AT&T reached an agreement with the power company in New York City, ConEd. The contract stated that whenever power demands exceeded the utility's grid, AT&T would lessen their demands on the electric utility by throwing a switch, unplugging some of its facilities, and drawing power from internal generators at its 33 Thomas Street station in lower Manhattan. It seemed like a great plan.

On September 17, AT&T acted in accordance with its agreement. But when their generators kicked in, the power surge kicked out some of their vital rectifiers that handled 4.5 million domestic calls, 470,000 international calls, 1,174 flights across the nation carrying 85,000 passengers, and the communications systems linking air traffic controllers at La Guardia, Kennedy, and Newark airports.

The alarm bells at the 33 Thomas Street station rang unheeded for six hours. AT&T personnel in charge of the rectifiers were away attending a planning session on how to handle emergencies.

I. INTRODUCTION

1. Having a plan does not assure you will reach your intended objective. Sometimes life doesn’t work out exactly as you planned. The late John Lennon (1940-1980) of Beatles fame stated it this way: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

2. Several characters in the Christmas story experience dramatic, divine changes to their plans.

II. DIVINE INTERRUPTIONS

1. God interrupts Mary. Mary’s life, predictable for a young woman of her day, has a plan. Her parents recently announced her engagement to a carpenter named Joseph.

A. Mary’s wedding is being planned; her life suddenly has new direction. Espousal in ancient Israel means that she will behave in every way as Joseph’s wife: in every way that is, but one (sexual intimacy is forbidden). Mary has plans—big plans. Ask any woman about the plans she made for marriage; it is a time of both effort and expectation.

B. One day God interrupts Mary’s life. The angel Gabriel confronts her with a message that she will bear a son, the long-awaited Messiah. Mary’s plans change; her rather ordinary life will never be the same. God changes history through an ordinary teenage girl.

[God disrupts the mundane to bring about the magnificent. In Mary’s womb is the Savior of the World; the Anointed One of God, come to redeem his people from their sin.]

2. God interrupts Joseph. Joseph has plans, too, and his plans surely do not include his wife-to-be becoming pregnant before their wedding.

A. In the ANE, this is unrivaled shame; Joseph can divorce her, affirm her infidelity and proclaim the child is not his. Infidelity is a capital offense, punishable by death.

B. Joseph considers “divorcing her quietly” (Mt. 1:19), to protect Mary’s dignity and perhaps her life. Matthew says Joseph considers this because “he is a righteous man.” In other words, Joseph has a plan for their lives and is about to carry it out, when

C. God interrupts. This time an angel of the Lord appears in a dream, telling Joseph to marry Mary. Her unborn child is of the Holy Spirit, and Joseph should fear nothing. He will be the father of the holy child. God changes history through a peasant carpenter.

[God interrupts the mundane to bring about the magnificent. Joseph’s decision is not the result of a divine mandate. God merely assures Joseph that he is an integral part of the divine plan.]

3. God interrupts Caesar Augustus. Augustus is the first Emperor of Rome, as it transitions from a republic (where power is held by the people or their elected officials) to an empire (where a sovereign ruler is appointed, aka. imperialism).

A. Augustus has a plan. Since an empire contained multiple lands or territories under single rule, about every fourteen years a census of all occupied lands was taken for military and tax purposes. The census takers record people’s names and place values on their possessions so the emperor will know just how rich every nation is (tax assessment).

B. Augustus has taxes on his mind; his plan is to build wealth for himself and his empire, so he declares a census—forcing all citizens to return their hometown. This brings Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah will come from the “city of David.” God enters the life of a pagan ruler to enable his Divine will.

[God interrupts the mundane to bring about the magnificent. Augustus thinks his legacy will be power and prominence; it turns out his notoriety comes from a baby born during a census he orders.]

4. God interrupts the shepherds. The most unlikely of interruptions. Why shepherds? They are men of meager reputation and deplorable social status. They spend their entire existence with sheep; religious leaders label them “unclean,” since they are unable to maintain any of the cleanliness laws (priests nonetheless interact daily for sacrificial lambs).

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