Sermon for Christmas Eve

Text: Luke 2:8-9
There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid.

 

They didn’t expect that!

Christmas is a time of surprises. We love to see the look of excitement and surprise on the faces of children as they open their Christmas presents.  Last Christmas Miriam and I both received a Mr Men book each from our daughter and her husband.  Inside was the inscription that we would be able to read this to our newest grandchild to be born later in 2014.  What a exciting surprise! We weren’t expecting that!

The Christmas story is full of people who weren’t expecting God to come to earth as a baby.  In 2012 a New Zealander, Simone Graham, wrote a children’s book entitled “An Unexpected Christmas”.  It’s a book that has been made into a drama for kids and has become very popular.  You might have seen it before but it’s worth seeing again. (You can find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM1XusYVqNY )

Let’s think about this for a minute.
When Gabriel announced to Mary she was going to have a baby – she wasn’t expecting that!
What is more, when Gabriel said her baby was son of the Most High God – she wasn’t expecting that!
When Joseph was told that Mary was pregnant – he wasn’t expecting that!
When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem and Joseph wanted the best place for Mary to deliver her child and all he could find was a stable – he wasn’t expecting that!
We heard about the shepherds and the message of the angels in the video and the birth of the Saviour – the one whom they had been waiting for all this time to bring great joy to his people.  That God would choose them to be the first to hear this Good News – they weren’t expecting that!
When King Herod was asked by some passing Wisemen from the East about a new born king – he wasn’t expecting that!
The Wisemen came bringing special gifts.  They expected to see a prince.  They knelt before Mary’s baby with all humility and worshipped him – they saw the Prince of Heaven sitting in Mary’s lap – they weren’t expecting that!

The Christmas story really is an unusual story, an unexpected way for God to react to the way people were behaving in the world.  As God says in the story book version, “I feel so far away from my kids down there.  It’s hard to be friends with people when you don’t like what they’re doing. I think it’s time – time for us to step in”.  The angels react in much the same way as we would and suggest sending down an angel army or at least someone very powerful to deal with what is happening on earth.  Evil is a very powerful thing in the human heart.  God could send angel warriors to deal with those who have forgotten their Creator Father, but no, he will send his son – not as a warrior prince but as a baby whose mother will be a peasant girl who will give birth to him in a stable.  As we heard – no one in heaven was expecting that.

Why did God choose this unexpected plan as the best one to save the world?  God is all wise and all-knowing and he chooses a plan that places the Prince of heaven in the arms of a teenage girl who had no child rearing experience and no family in Bethlehem to help her. 

God chooses a plan that would place the Prince of Heaven in an unstable political situation; God chose a plan that placed his son in a country where a tyrant king ruled and jealously guarded his authority.  The Father’s plan meant he would be born amongst animals and straw and poop in a stable.  He will be so small, tender, and vulnerable.  Why did God choose this plan above any other plan that might have been suggested in the heavenly court?

For God there was only one plan that would work.  It was a plan that grew out of his love for all people.  The only way he could rescue them completely from their own destruction and trouble was to send his son to become human just like them.  He came into the world just as we do.  He lived in a family with brothers and sisters and, of course, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts just as we do.  He grew and learnt new things and did and felt everything that we do.  That God would humble himself and become like us – no one expected that.

Then the young carpenter from Nazareth started speaking God's Word with authority, he taught about the Kingdom of God, about living God’s way, he healed the sick, raised the dead and stopped storms, even challenged the church authorities.  No one expected that!

His followers grew in number but also opposition to his teaching grew.  His enemies had him arrested, tortured and he died on a cross.  His disciples didn’t expect that! 
Before he dies he doesn’t curse his enemies but cries out for all to hear, “Father forgive them”. No one expected that!

A couple of days later, women go to the tomb where Jesus is buried and they are greeted by angels who tell them that Jesus has risen from the dead.  When they tell the disciples they didn’t believe them because they weren’t expecting that!

In fact, when you look at this rescue plan of God in its totality it all seems a bit crazy.  It true no one expected God to save humanity in this way, not even the disciples who were the closest to Jesus and had been taught so much about God’s ways and still didn’t understand. God’s last words in the video were very true, “They won’t be expecting that!” but look how effective that plan was. 

The angels who announced the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph and then to the shepherds excitedly told about the good news that bring great joy to all people.  The Saviour is coming into the world, his name is ‘Jesus’ because he will save people from sin, death and give eternal life to all who trust in him.  

Christmas shows us that God does some very unexpected things and works in some very unexpected ways.  In the same way, expect God to work in unexpected ways in your life.
Maybe God will challenge you with new directions in your life;
maybe give you peace and hope in what seems to be a hopeless situation:
maybe tear down some old barriers and restore a relationship;
maybe reach out to a person you would never have reached out before;
maybe give you time and energy to help others in new ways;
and it might happen that in the end you will say, “I wouldn’t have expected that!


© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
24th December 2014
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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