How many of you have fond memories of Christmases past? It’s kind of funny that when we look back on an experience in a sentimental way, we remember it as picture perfect, don’t we? I doubt any of us have experienced a picture-perfect Christmas Season, although that is what we all long for and often expect. Does this video characterize your efforts at Christmastime?
We want a picture-perfect gathering with family and friends and we often go to great lengths to create the perfect atmosphere. Look at these pictures that highlight expectation versus reality. Often our anxiety rises and our frustrations increase when we expect something and it doesn’t happen. We can be left feeling less than joyful when we dream big and fail to execute the dream.
I think that many people who were around during the birth of Jesus were left feeling less than joyful because they had expectations that God never intended to fulfill. King Herod was threatened by Jesus’ entry into the world because he expected to reign as King and have complete authority over the region. He didn’t want his kingship to be altered by the birth of a new king.
The Pharisees and other religious leaders didn’t embrace Jesus because they had expected a different kind of King. They didn’t want a King that would threaten their carefully crafted religious system, the system that had elevated them and given them special status. They weren’t impressed by a Messiah who would hang out with people who had made a mess of their lives. They were angry that Jesus’ claims about Himself elevated Him above their established authority. It ticked them off that Jesus seemed to understand the religious law, respect the religious law, and be above it all at the same time.
Isn’t it interesting that when the Wise Men asked King Herod where the infant King was and Herod called together the religious leaders to ask questions about the prophecies concerning the Messiah, when those religious leaders had learned that Wise Men from the east had come inquiring, it didn’t compel them to go to Bethlehem to check things out for themselves? They possessed a religious arrogance that kept faith from coming alive in them.
Many of the Jews couldn’t embrace Jesus because they were looking for a militant King, one who would overthrow Rome by force. Jesus didn’t “fit the mold.” He didn’t meet the expectations, therefore, He must not actually be the Messiah.
Those who were able to take Jesus in were those who allowed God to reshape their expectations. Joseph and Mary got it. The Shepherds got it. The Wise Men got it because they let their faith rather than their expectations carry them forward.
Expectations aren’t bad or wrong, but they may need to be adjusted in order to work in concert with the God who didn’t come to meet our expectations, but who came to remake our lives.
For those of us who like to have expectations, who want to think ahead, who want to have the best Christmas possible, allow me to share some safe expectations about this season for your consideration:
Expect a Divine Disruption.
Having a baby wasn’t on Mary’s radar. She was planning a wedding. It certainly wasn’t on Joseph’s radar. He knew he and Mary had been pure in their relationship. There was no reason to think a baby would be part of their beginning together. But God disrupted the plans and lives of Joseph and Mary to accomplish His plan. It would be a disruption that would come with great blessing and great sacrifice.
It is obvious from Scripture that both Mary and Joseph belonged to God. Their hearts were His. They quickly surrendered their plans in order to embrace God’s call. I’ve found, the closer we are to God, the easier it is to surrender when He asks us to. How we have come to admire the faith and boldness of Joseph and Mary and their willingness to cooperate with the plan of God. What would it take for us to be open to a Divine interruption that has the potential to change the course of the world?
The Shepherds were just doing their job. It was the same old same old for them. They were used to the routine, the mundane, the punching of the time clock. They minded their business, and their business was the sheep. But out of the blue, literally, God disrupted their lives. Angels appeared to them to tell of the birth of the Messiah, and they willingly had their day disrupted, their lives disrupted in order that they might travel to Bethlehem to see things for themselves.
They weren’t the first Shepherds to encounter a Divine Disruption. How about the Prophet Amos? We read in Amos 7:15, “But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” This man who had spent his whole career as a shepherd all of the sudden became the mouthpiece of God.
How about the young shepherd boy, a dreamer, with a multi-colored coat? How about Joseph, whose life would be disrupted as he was sold into slavery and then subsequently spent time in prison just so that God could eventually use him as second in command in Egypt and sustain God’s people during a time of famine?
How about a shepherd who lived on the back side of the dessert? His name was Moses. He was called to become God’s mouthpiece to Pharaoh in order to help liberate the Jewish nation who had become slaves in Egypt.
Or what about the shepherd boy named David who slew the Giant named Goliath and was anointed as the King of Israel?
Because each of these shepherds was open to a Divine Disruption, many were liberated and given an opportunity to hear the voice of God! It doesn’t matter what your station in life is, whether young or old, no matter your profession or upbringing, God is the great “Disrupter” of lives for those who know Him and trust Him to work out His plans.
Herod and the religious leaders were skeptical, cynical and arrogant. Joseph and Mary and the shepherds were faith-filled and humble. They gave God the space He needed to be God in their lives. How is it with you? Is there room in your heart and life for God to work this Christmas? Psalm 37:23-The steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord. If you are open to a Divine Disruption this Christmas, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Expect the Working of a Divine Plan.
Every event in the Christmas story from the bright star to the Wise Men from afar, the virgin birth and the place where Jesus would enter onto the world’s stage—every detail had been foretold. It had been planned. God knew what He was doing in the sending of Jesus from the beginning of time. Joseph and Mary couldn’t have understood every implication when they agreed to take part in God’s plan, but they knew God was executing something they could never have conceived, never have expected, and never could have accomplished without His help. There are over 200 prophecies about the coming of Christ into the world. They were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus came. His appearance wasn’t random. It was a carefully, strategically calculated plan. God is a planner.
You are not merely living a life sort of as an island unto yourself. You are a character in a story of love and purpose and your story is being written by the hand of the Almighty, Loving God. It is executed as you yield yourself to respond to God in faith.
His plan is hardly ever logical, but it is always loving and perfect. When the angel told Mary she would bear a son, it didn’t make sense to her. She had some questions, but God reassured her through the angel that all things were possible with God. What didn’t make sense to her, what seemed illogical was actually the working of God’s Sovereign plan.
When things get hectic this Christmas, when your heart is broken because someone is missing at your table and you wonder what God was thinking in calling them home, when the expectations of others don’t fit the size of your wallet, when things that you are counting on to happen don’t happen for some reason, just know God is still in control. He won’t abandon you. He will still be working in your life to write His story.
There is a peace that comes when we understand that our lives are also part of the history that God is writing. The interruptions and disruptions in the life of a believer aren’t random happenings, but they are working together to accomplish a plan that we may never fully understand until we see the Lord face to face.
I love Psalm 138:8 in the New Living Translation: The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
This is a promise of Scripture. God will work out His plan in our life. Tell yourself that. No matter what health crisis you are walking through, no matter what financial hardship, no matter what relational stress, encourage yourself in the Lord. He is FOR you, and He is working something wonderful in and through your life even when your earthly expectations aren’t met.
Something we have to understand is that God’s plans happen in God’s time. Galatians 4:4-5 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Jesus came to earth at just the right time. It was the right time in the history of the Jewish nation. It was the right time politically. It was the right time culturally. I don’t have time to detail this morning why that moment in history was the perfect time for Jesus to come and have covered that in previous Advent messages, but suffice it to say the timing was perfect.
God has a perfect timing for the execution of His plans. There are two Greek words for time used in the New Testament. One is “Chronos.” That is the counting of minutes. That is what we do as humans. We count the minutes. We pace and fret and wonder why what we are expecting is taking so long. We want time to hurry up or to slow down. We want to manipulate time or capture time or savor time.
The other Greek word for time is God’s timing which is “Kairos.” Kairos refers to an opportune time, a critical time, an appointed time. It is the “for such a time as this” time that Mordecai referred to when he was telling Queen Esther God was a work in a Divine way to help her rescue God’s people. It is the “carpe diem-seize-the-day” moment when action is needed because it has been prepared and planned for and it is the right time. I learned that Kairos is actually an archery term that refers to an arrow that is released with sufficient power to penetrate the target.
Listen, our God knows when it is time to release the arrow and to hit the bullseye. We can trust Him. He knows what He is doing. He created time. He was the one that established morning and evening and the passing of time. God could do anything He wanted in an instant. God doesn’t have to have time in order to work, but He chooses to work in time for our benefit. It takes us time to learn and grow. People don’t mature when everything is handed to them instantly. They don’t look to God when every expectation or desire is met without seeking, without waiting, without praying. God isn’t in a hurry because He wants us to have the maximum benefit from whatever it is we are going through. Some blessings take time.
God is never panicked. He is never in a hurry. He chooses the times to enter in, to manifest His presence, to bring His healing, to provide His protection, comfort and blessing. We get all caught up in five-year plans and in deadlines, but God isn’t bound by any of that. Pastor Henry Blackaby tells about waiting on a $60,000 wire transfer to complete their church building. After multiple delays, the money still hadn’t come through. Amazingly, the money was finally wired on the only day the Canadian exchange rate fell so much that it provided an additional $60,000 of revenue!
Isn’t that awesome? You know I have been praying for a million dollar gift for this ministry for at least eleven years, and the passing of time doesn’t decrease my faith. It will come, and it will be in God’s perfect time! The building of this building was at least 17 years in the making. The church bought this property 17 years before we moved in. It is a miracle that we are here, and this miracle took time. God works in time because He works in and through a people who live in time who are called to trust Him and walk by faith. This Christmas, be excited, be pumped, live with a spirit of anticipation because God is at work to work out His Divine plan!
Isaiah 46:9-10 tells us God knows the end from the beginning, so we can have confidence in what He asks and in how He acts to write the history of our lives.
This may be the best Christmas ever for you or you may be dreading it and be glad when it is over. Even if you think it is bad, just know and believe that God is doing something good even in the bad and hard times. Romans 8:28 assures us that God is working all things for our good. We simply have to trust His plan and the timing of His execution.
Expect a Divine Miracle.
You know that news of the Virgin Birth had to have traveled far and wide. Why would Joseph corroborate Mary’s story if he hadn’t believed a miracle had come upon her? If Joseph wasn’t fully convinced that Mary had conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, he would have been hunting down the guy responsible so that he could take him out. He knew it was a miracle!
There were angelic visitations. There was someone who became mute and then was able to speak again. There was a barren woman in an advanced age who conceived John the Baptist. There were people traveling from a far country, people taking off of work to seek the Christ-child. The star that shone over Bethlehem was a miracle in some form or fashion. Many people encountered a miracle in order to see Jesus for themselves. Maybe that is what it will take for some of us to come close to Jesus. I am praying for the miracle of salvation to be given to many this Christmas season!
God is still at work in miraculous ways. A forty-year-old mother, Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro, went into Florida’s Boca Raton Regional Hospital to deliver her baby via c-section on September 23, 2014. After delivering her daughter, she was happily talking with her family when she began to slip into unconsciousness. It turns out, she was suffering from amniotic fluid embolism, a rare condition in which amniotic fluid enters the mother’s blood. This can cause blood clots, which often lead to death in the new mother.
For two hours, both nurses and doctors struggled to keep Ruby alive, but after that time, her heart finally stopped beating. For the next forty-five minutes, they continued chest compressions, taking turns so that no one became exhausted in their efforts. They even used shock paddles, but all seemed to be to no avail. Finally admitting there was nothing left they could do to save the woman’s life, doctors chose to call Ruby’s family in so that they could say their final goodbyes.
When the family left Ruby’s side, they began to pray as the doctors were prepared to call a time of death. However, the heart monitor stopped them from doing so. At first, it was a single beep, then another. A nurse by the name of Claire Hansen went to tell the family to continue praying, because Ruby’s heart had once again started beating. After 45 minutes with no heartbeat, not only did Ruby spontaneously resuscitate, but to this day, has no ill effects of her near death experience.
I believe God has a miracle for you this Christmas season. Are you open to it? Do you desire it? Are you praying for it? Will you participate in it when it comes? Will you allow God to be seen and the story of His working in your life to be told when it takes place? Can you allow God to adjust your expectations this Christmas?
There was nothing picture-perfect about the night Jesus was born. The scene in the stable was chaotic at best. Bethlehem was anything but quiet the night Jesus was born. Mary gave birth in an animal shelter after traveling quite a distance. She and Joseph didn’t have their families in a waiting room ready to celebrate with them. It was certainly less ideal. It surely was not the kind of moment they had dreamed about as they would welcome their child into the world, but because Jesus was there, it was perfect. Because they had allowed God to work His plan, it was special. Because they had been open to a miracle, it was Divine.
If you are looking for a God to meet your expectations, Jesus isn’t for you. But if you are looking for a God to rescue you from sin, to give you a home in Heaven, and to work miracles in and through your life, Jesus is the One you need to turn to today. Expect Him to be speaking to you, calling to you, challenging you, working in you and working through you this Christmas season.