Taking a journey involves planning and preparation. You decide where you are going and then begin to make decisions about the best way to get there. You decide how much time you’ll spend in each place, where you will stop for the night, and what activities you hope to pursue. If you are like me, as much as possible, you try to make plans ahead of time to avoid unwanted difficulties, unwanted delays and you calculate what will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Preparing for Christmas is a lot like that kind of journey planning. There will be stops to make at people’s homes that you may only make once a year. There will be activities like baking, shopping and playing in the snow-all of which are important. You’ll be watching sale ads, looking online for deals and digging for store coupons you know you have somewhere.
There are some moments in a journey, however, that can’t be anticipated. There are some details that can’t be planned for. There are funny things that happen along the way or insertions into your journey that God has made. You may have forgotten to pack them, but God has slipped them into your suitcase and as you open them the journey becomes more memorable and more meaningful.
Last week I mentioned that the wisemen and the shepherds made journeys to see Jesus. I challenged you to see Advent as a time of journey. Let me add another layer onto that idea and say that Advent is a journey of Adventure. God wants to take you deep into the heart of His hope, peace, joy and love.
A movie based on C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” is set to release this week. I hope you’ll all find time to go see it. I’ll be using some illustrations from the book to help us understand the journey of Christmas during the rest of this message.
Sometimes a journey becomes a great opportunity for a reality check. I remember one journey Thom and I made with friends. We both had babies at the time. Hannah was nine months and Baylee was six months. It was the year George Bush was elected president. I’ll tell you why I remember that in a minute.
We had been given a timeshare opportunity to pick a resort anywhere in the country and to take our friends with us. After looking at all of the brochures and options, we chose a resort in Vermont thinking it would be great fun to see another part of the country. Wanting to save our pennies, we found a flight into Canada and then drove to the place in VT. It was a horribly long journey, especially with babies. We were exhausted when we arrived, and we couldn’t wait to be refreshed and renewed by all of the amenities the resort offered.
The reality check came for us when we found out we had chosen a resort in VT on the off season and none of their extras were open or operating. In fact, nothing was operating. No food service. Nothing. We were then ushered to our tiny rooms with bunk beds, and we all about came unglued. I’ll tell you why I remembered it was the year George Bush was elected president. I remembered it because that’s all we did. There was nothing else to do but watch the elections and play cards. We had seen a brochure that painted a different story, but things weren’t in reality what they seemed.
Fortunately for us as Christians, true reality is better than we can ever imagine. Allow me to explain.
In chapter one of the “Dawn Treader” book, Edmund, Lucy and Eustace enter Narnia through a magical painting. In “The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader,” three school children encounter another real world that begins breaking into our own world. Strange and exciting things happen when another real world invades our own. We learn that what we see, what we think we know, most of what we experience, isn’t true reality. There is a greater reality, a perfect reality that exists beyond the dimension in which we are confined to.
Mary had an experience like this when the angel Gabriel appeared to her in Nazareth. Luke 1:26-28 tells us, “26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
In our journey into Christmas we catch a glimpse of a different reality which leads us to this truth. True hope comes from a world beyond our world.
We can’t generate hope from inside ourselves. Hope is not concocted from any earthly formula. Hope had to invade our world because the truth is, a world without God, a life without God is a hopeless one. And so, with the angel’s announcement to Mary, Hope from the outside burst onto the scene.
I love that the news came through an angel. It was as visual as it was audible. The brightness of angelic light changed the way Mary was looking at everything around her. Mary could see her surroundings in a new light. That’s what hope does. True hope brightens dull days and lives.
Mary was an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life in an ordinary town, but Gabriel came to her with God’s message of hope that meant that from now on Mary’s life could be anything but ordinary. Mary was going to be a carrier of hope. Literally, she would carry Jesus, the Hope of the world.
Listen, church. Because a greater reality has burst into our lives, because true Hope has come to us from a world beyond, we now can see things differently. We can see God differently as we now can look at Him up close and personal in the person of Jesus Christ. We can see our surroundings in a new light. The Apostle Paul put it this way in II Corinthians 4:18, “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” What we are experiencing now is only a shadow. It isn’t true reality.
Mary carried Hope in her womb. You can carry Hope in your heart, soul, and mind as you walk around with the Spirit of Hope, the Holy Spirit, living on the inside of you. Turn and ask your neighbor, “Are you a carrier of Hope?”
Because Hope invaded Mary’s life, she had a new purpose. She would now become the mother of the Son of God. She now would be involved in the miracle of God. You can have the same sense of purpose and adventure and thrill if you will allow Hope to be born in you this day. “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” Journey into God’s hope, a greater reality a different dimension.
We also see in our journey into Christmas that true peace comes from a world beyond our world.
In chapter 7 of the book “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Reepicheep consoles Eustace (as the dragon) that things will turn out right in the end.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the movie, the valiant mouse Reepicheep is inspired by the belief that adversity is often overcome, and his confidence inspires others.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Jesus’ coming brings with it a sense that everything will turn out alright in the end. God’s justice will always prevail. We can be at peace because we know the end of the story.
The shepherds around Bethlehem find inspiration in the news that God’s peace is coming to a people in need of a Savior.
Luke 2:8-10 reads, “8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Before the angels said anything to the shepherds, they spoke words of peace. The shepherds weren’t just spooked. They weren’t just anxious. The Scripture says they were terrified! So, before the message was even delivered, words of peace were spoken to the shepherds as the angels consoled them and told them they didn’t need to be afraid.
I think that is precious about the character of God. He will take time to settle us down before He shares with us what He wants to say. God’s peace provides that kind of comfort. Have you heard His words of comfort already this morning?
There was peace in the angels’ consoling words and there was promised peace in that Salvation had come to the world. Luke 2:11 “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” It is salvation, peace with God, that makes any Hope a sure thing. It is salvation, peace with God, that brings peace to your daily life.
Sometimes, especially when I’m organizing an event or in charge of something, there are certain things I have to know and see for myself. I can delegate and put people in charge of different pieces of things, but ultimately when I am in charge, it is difficult to be at peace unless I see for myself that certain pieces are falling into place. Thom is so great to tell me repeatedly, “It will all work out” or “Everything will come together,” but for me, seeing it coming together gives me the peace I need to settle down and settle in to enjoy and embrace the moment.
I believe the shepherds were like me. They had to go “see it for themselves.” Just hearing it didn’t give them peace. They had to witness the Savior’s birth. They had to journey into Christmas peace firsthand. Church, peace can’t be served to you and accomplish results. It has to be ingested. It has to be taken in. It’s not the message of peace that makes it powerful. It’s experiencing it that will transform your life.
The journey into Christmas is a journey of hope, peace, and joy. True joy comes from beyond our world.
In “The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader” movie, the daughter of a star teaches Caspian what he must do to fulfill Aslan’s purposes.
Following a star, the wisemen came to Judea convinced that God’s purposes were being fulfilled in their own lifetime.
In Matthew 2:1-2 we read, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
True joy is experienced when we trust that God is at work. It was an old promise found in Numbers 24:17 that the wisemen took to heart. It reads, ““I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” It had been spoken hundreds of years before Christ’s birth. They wisemen had been watching for a sign that God was at work. They saw the sign, the bright star in the Eastern sky and then they asked some questions about that sign in order to get closer to Jesus.
God’s mission in sending Jesus is complete, but don’t you think for one minute that He has pulled out of human history. He isn’t finished working in this world. The landscape may look like chaos, but God is at work to will and to act according to His good purpose. (Phil. 2:13)
Everything that transpired that first Christmas was exactly as God had planned. We read in Matthew 2:3-6 “3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ ”
Never for one moment was God’s plan compromised or threatened. Even King Herod with his murderous threats couldn’t thwart the plan of God. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to know that life isn’t random. God has a plan and He is large and in charge. He had a plan to bring salvation to the world and He has a plan for every individual life. You are either experiencing great joy because you are going along with that plan or you are restless, frustrated, angry, and at odds with God, yourself and others. Am I telling the truth this morning?
Matthew 2:7-10 says, “7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”
You will possess great joy if you will follow the promises and plans of God. Before they ever saw the Christ-child, they experienced great joy. Following God’s leading and getting to the place where He is calling you to go, will produce great joy in your life. We see from the wisemen’s journey that following God’s plan led to great joy.
True hope, peace, joy and love come from beyond our world.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Jesus got it right with people 100% of the time. His love was and is perfect. He is tender, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Numbers 14:18
In “The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader” the movie the love between the main characters grows through adversity, while their common love of Aslan deepens.
Going through life’s ups and downs with someone causes a relationship to deepen and grow. The relationship is stronger because of the trust that is built and the reliance on one another that develops.
We see this is true in the love story between Joseph and Mary. Through adversity and surprises, Joseph’s love for Mary, for the Christ Child and for God is made real in practical ways.
Matthew 1:18-19 says, “18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Joseph’s love for Mary caused him to have compassion on her. He didn’t want to see her ridiculed and disgraced. He wanted to save her from embarrassment and shame. You see love deepens for people as we understand God’s plan. Genuine love is made real through compassion.
It’s that way with God and us. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. For His compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22
Because of Joseph’s compassionate love for Mary, he didn’t want her to suffer unnecessarily. Because of God’s compassionate love for us, He didn’t want us to suffer unnecessarily. He sent Jesus to bear the weight of our sin and shame. When we embrace what Jesus did, we become reliant on God in a way that only deepens our love for God and others.
We also see in Joseph that love was made real through adoption. Joseph took Jesus in as a son, adopting him, giving him a family and a name. The journey into Christmas involves experiencing the love and security that come from being adopted by God. I John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
This love from the other side, from another dimension is a “lavish” love. It makes us feel special and safe.
The kind of hope, peace, joy, and love that are at the heart of the journey into Christmas are beyond description in any earthly language, but once you experience them, you are convinced that a greater reality lies beyond what we can see. One day, those who have put their faith and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord will fully engage in that other place, in that other dimension, in that true reality without any limitations. Just like the journey I described at the beginning of this message, it’s the kind of journey you have to plan for. You have to make the decision to embrace that true reality. Once you make the decision to take the journey, the rest of the details aren’t up to you. They will be taken care of a loving Heavenly Father.
You know, God could have kept His distance. He could have sent a representative. He didn’t have to come in the person of Jesus Christ to pay the price for your sins and mine. But, when He looked down on humanity, He was moved with compassion. He knew we needed hope, peace, joy and love. He knew how to provide it for us. And so,
He looked down.
He came down.
He laid down.
Then He rose from the dead, and He ascended
And He sat down on this throne.
And because He is ruling in power, He can give you hope, peace, joy and love from another dimension in a way that will change your life here and in the true reality later.
God is here, right now. He is pressing in on some of your hearts and minds. Some of you need hope. You need to know that your life matters and that you have a purpose for living. A Savior from another dimension has come to give it to you.
Some of you need peace. I’m not talking about a sign in the sky that everything will be the way that you want it tomorrow, but I’m talking about the assurance that everything will be alright in the end and that God’s will, will prevail.
Some of you need joy. You need to trust that God is at work in your life. You need to submit to His plan and let go of your anger and pain so that God can heal you. He can only take over when you let go of the reigns.
Some of you need love. Your earthly parents maybe didn’t love themselves and it was difficult for them to love others. Maybe you don’t feel special and safe. You can today.
You can journey into Christmas because a Savior from another dimension journeyed to you. As I play this song, I invite you to an altar of prayer where you can say “yes” to the journey. Come as I sing and receive the hope, peace, joy, and love the Christ-Child came to bring. Will you stand just to make it easier for those who might want to come and pray to slip out? God bless you as you respond in faith-as you journey into Christmas.