December 20, 2020
If there were ever a time when we all needed Christmas, it’s this year. After all, Christmas reminds us about so much that’s good. It reminds us of how much we love and cherish our families – feeling the warmth of their hugs, hearing them laugh around the table, or just hanging out in front of a roaring fire in new Christmas jammies. It also rekindles childhood memories of wonder and delight – of anticipating Santa’s arrival, going to grandma’s house, or just opening presents under the tree. But more than anything Christmas allows us to reflect on the Unexpected Gift of God’s love found wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Think about it. Just about everything associated with that first Christmas was unexpected. No one expected a servant girl from Nazareth to be a virgin who would bear God a son. No one expected a census would send Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. And no one expected Mary to give birth to Jesus in an obscure stable on the backside of Bethlehem. But it’s in this unexpected arrival of Jesus that we find the joy of Christmas.
And It’s this joy that we need to be reminded of today in a year that none of us ever expected. So, if you brought your Bible with you today, I want to encourage you to find Luke 2:1-12, where we’re going to take a fresh look at the unexpected birth of Jesus. And as we do, my hope is that God will rekindle in you, the unexpected miracle of His love for you.
But first, let’s listen once again to Luke’s account of this unexpected miracle, beginning in verse 1: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
Now, in this paragraph, Luke records one thing Mary were never expected. Mary didn’t expect to travel toBethlehem in her condition. Every doctor tells a pregnant mother, the one thing you don’t do so close to your delivery date is to travel. So I can’t imagine how hard this must of been for Mary. Not only was she having to ride a donkey at full term, but she was expecting her mother to be nearby to help her at childbirth. This wasn’t going to happen. Circumstances outside of her control meant that she had to go on this unexpected journey. And at the end of this journey, Joseph couldn’t even find a suitable place to lodge for the night, and so she ended up giving birth to the Savior of the world in some obscure stable. Of course, what they didn’t know at the time, was that their unexpected journey to Bethlehem was all part of God’s plan. For Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill what was said by the prophet Micah: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2
So here’s the first insight we can take away from this unexpected turn of events: Sometimes God uses unexpected circumstances to fulfill His plans. Looking back on this first Christmas, it is clear for us to see what God had in mind. We now know Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill Scripture.
But what about us? What about the unexpected circumstances in our lives? None of us expected this pandemic. None of us expected how this pandemic would affect daily life. And none of us expected that this pandemic to last so long. As a result, it’s affected all of us in some way. Some have actually had to suffer through this disease. Some have known friends or relatives who have died. And some have had your plans to travel to see loved ones put on hold. For Becky and I this hits close to home. With Kayla having her baby last Sunday night, we had previously made a family decision to not travel to Bend at McKinnon’s birth. For us to quarantine for 10 days or more in a hotel is just wouldn’t work. But here were are – if there were ever a time when Kayla needed her mother to be there, it’s now. For last weekend, after three days in the hospital trying to deliver this baby, Kayla had to have a cesarian. Now, her and the baby are doing well. But this unexpected pandemic has kept us apart when we need to be together. And I can imagine all of you have some kind of story like ours. So like Joseph and Mary, we’ll just have to trust that God’s in control, and that whatever good might come out of this, we’ll just have to wait and see.
And that’s a good thing for us to remember. We don’t always know how God might take an unexpected turn of events in our lives and turn it into something good. Sometimes He may allow the unexpected to get your attention – to draw you close to Him. Sometimes He may allow the unexpected to stretch your faith, as He did with Joseph and Mary. And sometimes He may allow the unexpected because He has something great in store for you, or even for someone else: like He did with this detour in the life of Joseph and Mary. For not only did they take an unexpected journey, but they got an unexpected welcome. For once they arrived in Bethlehem, they were DENIED a safe and warm place to bring God’s Son into the world. So Jesus was born in a manger on the backside of Bethlehem. And no one expected that. No one expected Jesus to be born in a manger, but He was.
But what I love about God’s plan in having Jesus born this way – born in an obscure stable, born in poverty, and born rejected – without a place to lay his head is this: God’s Son came into the world in a manger so that we would know that no one would be outside the scope of God’s grace.
Paul describes Jesus’ lowly birth this way: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
The good news of this unexpected Christmas is that since Jesus was born in in obscurity, born into poverty, and had no place to lay his head – there is now room for anyone with Him. That’s the first BLESSING of this unexpected Christmas. Jesus had no place to lay his head so that now anyone can find a place with Him. That’s the good news of great joy: God made it possible for you and for me to find a place with Him. NO ONE IS OUTSIDE THE REACH OF GOD’S GRACE! The rejected, the poor, the lonely and forgotten among us – there’s a place for you with Jesus. That’s one unexpected blessing of Christmas.
But that’s not all that came out of this unexpected Christmas, look now with me at verses 8-12: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
Here’s the next unexpected turn of events that happened that first Christmas. No one expected shepherdsto be the first to hear the good news of Messiah’s birth! But they were!… I always marvel to whom God chose to share the greatest news of all time – to these lowly shepherds. After all, shepherds were the dirtiest, scabbiest, low-life of Israel. If you asked a righteous Jew who would be the last person on earth that God would come to? They would be quick to say: “The shepherds!” But God chose them to be the first to hear the birth announcement of the Messiah.
What was their response? At first, they were terrified. But then the angel said: “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.”
Now talk about the unexpected. For thousands of years, this one angel had the plum job every other angel hoped to have – to share the good news of Christ’s birth for all people. And of all people, the angel was tasked to share this message to these shepherds. And when he arrived to give this message of good news, these shepherds were terrified. Why? Because the shepherds lived in constant fear of judgment, for they had no way to remove the guilt of their sin. And this was so ironic, for these shepherds were the very ones whose job was to care for sacrificial lambs: the lambs that were slain in Temple worship for the forgiveness of sin. Their job was to watch over these lambs, fed and water these lambs, protect and love these lambs whose sole purpose was to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. So everyday their job reminded them of their own sin and the hopelessness of them ever being forgiven. Since as shepherds, they were considered such lowlifes, those who were supposed to be closest to God excluded them from the very temple worship these lambs provided… But not tonight! Not tonight! No, for on this night God did the unexpected: God made certainthey would be the first to be INCLUDED in the message of the good news. “Do not be afraid. 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.”
Isn’t that awesome? With this unexpected announcement that a is Savior born for them, they too understood what we now know: no one is outside the realm of God’s grace! Even lowly, temple excluded Shepherds. But what’s even better for us who look back on this announcement, is this: If a Savior was born for these shepherds, then anyone who has no hope, can how have hope with Jesus. For the good news is that this Savior was born for ANYONE who needs a Savior. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never darkened a church door. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent all your life far from God. It doesn’t matter how worthless you feel or how sinful you’ve been. God’s message of good news is for YOU, personally. That’s the unexpected announcement of God’s grace wrapped up in the birth of Jesus. Your guilt, your judgment, your shame and your fear can be removed. For on this unexpected Christmas day, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for YOU.
This is the unexpected miracle of Christmas. This is the good news of great joy wrapped up in swaddling cloths. Lying in that manger is the incarnation of God’s love for you. As God’s Word says: For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That’s the good news of great joy: God came into the world as a helpless baby, to help you find life with Him. You see, with the birth of Jesus God gives us the most unexpected gift anyone can ever receive. For the day Jesus was born, he was born to die for you, so you would not have to die. That’s the miracle in the manger. God loves you so much that He gave His one and only Son to be your Savior, so you might have eternal life through Him. That’s the good news of great joy. Jesus was born for you. And none of us ever expected that. That’s why Christmas is so great!
But before we wrap this up today I want to share with you one last unexpected consequence of Christ’s birth, and that is this: No one expected Jesus to be Lord at His birth, but He is! When the angel announced that this child born to us it the Christ, this message became as much good news for us today as it was for Israel over 2000 years ago. For when Jesus was born as Messiah, as the promised King, it meant that the days were numbered for the kingdoms of this world. For with the coming of Jesus meant that God’s sovereign rule has now invaded the realm of men. No longer will position and power rule. A new king has arrived, and He’s come to wreak havoc among the status quo, and His kingdom will have no end, just as Daniel predicted saying. “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, not will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44
This reign of Christ began the day He was born. On that silent night, God’s kingdom broke into our world. That is why Jesus was born in a humble manger and not in the courts of a King. For with His coming came a new kind of realm: a realm of light, where truth transforms; a realm of righteousness, where peace and joy rule in the hearts of men; an unshakable realm, that the powers of this world will seek to destroy, but will fail; and a realm where Jesus reigns – giving us His vision for a life of love! This is why His kingdom will endure and why His kingdom will crush all other kingdoms. And this is why Jesus says, His kingdom will be filled with the humble, the meek and merciful. His kingdom is for those who mourn, who seek peace and hunger and thirst after righteousness. For His kingdom is the realm of those He redeems, who call heaven their home and Jesus their King.
This is a third unexpected turn of events at the birth of Jesus. Now we don’t just have the hope of eternal life but we have hope for our world. Hatred doesn’t have to win. Injustice doesn’t have to rule. And power does not have to prosper. For now, with Jesus as King, relationships can be restored, compassion can make things right and love can overcome all.
With the arrival of Jesus He gives us a new way to live: the way of love. With Jesus being Christ the Lord at His birth, a new day has dawned, where Christ can now reign in our hearts, renew our lives, and make things right in our world. So we need not fear. For we are not alone, God has come to be with us and reign over us with love. Now I don’t know about you, but this unexpected blessing of Christ’s birth gives me great hope for tomorrow.
For with Christ’s birth, not only has God’s grace reached down to include the least likely. Not only has God’s grace come to love us at our worst. But God’s grace has come to give us hope. Hope for life with Him and hope for the days that lie ahead. That’s the unexpected blessing found in wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
So let me ask you this morning ? Have you unwrapped God’s most precious gift to you? Have you received Jesus as your Savior? For if you’ve received him, then you know the joy of Christmas. But if you have not, listen to what God’s Word has to say to you about receiving Jesus: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:11-13
That’s the unexpected miracle of Christmas. Jesus was born to die for you. Jesus was born to give you new life. Jesus was born to give you hope, and Jesus was born to bring you into God’s family. And all that’s required of you is to receive Him by faith – to believe in the name of Jesus, and you will not only be saved – but you’ll become part of God’s family forever. That’s the unexpected miracle of God’s grace wrapped up for you and lying in a manger. We all need a little Christmas this year, and God’s given us all we need is in Jesus. If we just receive Him. Let’s pray.