Today is the start of a new series, and we are calling it the awesome wonder of Christmas.
Really it’s about worship.
And the big idea is that we are looking at the Christmas story but we’re not focusing on the Nativity characters, except one. What does the Christmas story reveals to us about God, about who he is and what he’s like?
And I am convinced that if we take a really good look at the Christmas story, like a really good look, it will cause us to do something maybe we haven’t done for a long time- be filled with awe and wonder, it will make us just go – wow!
Now let me start here:
How important would you say it is for us to be in awe and wonder of God?
Like how important would you say that is?
If I’m honest, there is a part inside me and maybe inside you that’s kind of like- Who’s got time for that?
Like last week, as I’m preparing for this message, I was feeling like, I’m too busy to be in awesome wonder of God. I have a turkey to make, actually Rana made the turkey, but I had to support her. Who’s got time to awe and wonder? Because we value activity, and busyness, and performance, and something tangible...
So how important is it to be in awe and wonder of God?
In the book of Acts, chapter 2, is very famous passage about the early church, and normally we remember that passage based on all the cool things they did: they were devoted to the apostles teaching, they were breaking bread, they were selling everything they had and sharing it all. You know that passage right? But one thing that gets overlooked is not just what they did, but how they did it.
The passage says that awe came upon every soul.
In other word, everything they did they did from a heart that was in awe and wonder of God.
Now how important was that?
I believe all and wonder what is the secret sauce that brought all the things they did together.
I mean imagine them just doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff. Imagine one of them going OK now we got to go to Bible study, and then I have to sell my house and give it to the church… No no no, all these things they did because they were inspired because they were lost in wonder of their amazing God, and the most natural thing to do was all the things they did…
How important is it for us to be in awe and wonder of God?
It’s like if you get one thing, get this, you get this and all else will follow. You miss this and it all become drudgery and busy work.
Maybe that is why theologians say that worship of God is the highest form of human activity. To be lost in wonder of God is a human being at their very best!
So when you wake up in the morning and you are tempted to skip devotions and just get busy. Maybe you can preach to yourself. You are not a human doing you are a human being. And our first and primary role is just to BE sons and daughters of the living God, who stand in awe and wonder of Him!
Same thing during this Christmas season. Let’s make time to experience God!
Can I get an amen?
OK so what is in the Christmas story full of awe and wonder?
And you don’t have to go too far before you start to see it.
Share J I Packer’s thoughts…
JI Packer in his book Knowing God shares about all the Christian doctrine that is hard to believe. He’s like some people find certain doctrine hard to understand: the atonement, the resurrection, the virgin birth, all the miracles that Jesus did in the gospels. Then he writes this- “but in fact the real difficulty… does not lie here at all. It lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man…”
Packer is like of all the doctrines in the Bible the most staggering one is the Christmas story the Incarnation of Christ, the story of God becoming a human being!
To be clear, it wasn’t Jesus becoming 50% human 50% God. It was Jesus fully God also becoming fully human. Someone put it like this: Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. Remaining God, he became a human being.
All right that is a very big idea. Now if we’re going to unpack this in the right way we have to start at the right starting point which is…
The greatness of God and then from there we’ll talk about the Incarnation. But let’s start at the Greatness of God.
Have you guys ever been to Yosemite?
Amazing, Amazing, once you go to Yosemite than you start to compare everything with Yosemite.
Across from Curry Village is this meadow and in the middle of this meadow is a wooden dock that cuts right through it. And the first time I went to Yosemite as an adult was like 15 years ago, and the youth were like, Andrew when it gets dark we have to go to this meadow. So we waited until it was dark and then we went for a night hike. Got to the meadow and walked all the way down to the middle of this wooden dock and we all laid down. And we turned off all the flashlight so it was pitch dark, and we all looked up and it was like…Whoa. Not a cloud in the sky. All the stars came out in this beautiful brilliant dazzling display.
And I remember thinking who has the creative energy to create all this?
How powerful does a person have to be to create all these heavenly globes in their spare time?
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.
Now before we unpack the Incarnation of God we first need to go to the God who created the galaxies who bring out each and calls them by name…
This is how the first chapter of Matthew opens OK?
The first chapter of the book of Matthew tells us that Joseph who was betrothed to Mary was thinking of quietly divorcing her. Because she was pregnant. Because he wasn’t the father.
But as he considered these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
So the angel tells Joseph that the human life growing inside Mary has come not from any human being but from God. Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit – what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit, so the real father is God.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet:
“behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
OK boom. The identity of Jesus is even more clear and direct here. Matthew quotes from Isaiah Who says that a virgin will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us.
You know, for centuries, Jewish leaders and scholars knew this prophecy but they never took it literally. They thought it was predicting the coming of a great leader and through their work and through their speaking, God would figuratively be with them. But they never took it literally, I mean like in human form, who would take that literally?
But Matthew is saying this promise is greater than anyone imagined. That this son who is called “God with us“ is actually literally God coming down from Heaven as a human being TO BE WITH US!
You guys Today the crazy awesome idea of Christmas is that this God
Who created the stars and the galaxies.
That the God who is bigger than the universe put himself inside a human body!
That the Uncreated One who all things created depends on to exist…became…a created thing!
Now I know you guys know that, but can we just step back
and look at this with fresh eyes?
Are you kidding me?
Like maybe you’ve been a Christian for a long time can you just imagine explaining this to someone who didn’t grow up in the church? Oh yeah God who created everything the earth the stars the galaxy yeah he became a human being. Really?
BUT there is every more!
Not only does he became a human being.
But…but…he is born in a barn.
And so they put him in an animal feeding trough.
Are you kidding me?
God made Himself into a baby and that baby was lying in a feeding trough.
Imagine being there.
Right in the middle of the barn in a feeding trough…
Now I didn’t have a feeding trough
But I did have a box
Imagine God putting himself in a box.
Imagine if you were there knowing what you know, you could walk up to God and look at him in the Face.
I mean in the Old Testament, often when people would have an encounter with God they would be really scared afterwards because they thought they were going to die.
And here you could walk up and look at God right in the eye.
You could pick God up in your arms.
You could touch God.
Like the person who was actively involved in creating all the stars and the galaxies is here and you are able to hold Him in your arms!!
He’s a baby and he would need to be fed and he would need to be changed and that is like so weird.
All right all of this is just shocking and staggering. If you really think about it.
Why did God become a baby?
Why in the world would God become a human being?
I have heard that the equivalent of God becoming a man is like one of us becoming a piece of lint.
Now I don’t know about you but when I was small my parents wanted me to grow up and become a lawyer, they wanted me to make a name for myself. No one wants to grow up and become a piece of lint.
Why would God do this?
The book of Hebrews says that Jesus was made like us, “fully human in every way“ (Hebrews 2:17.) That means “because he himself suffered when he was tried and tested, he is able to help those who are being tried and tested“ (Hebrews 2:18).
Because Jesus became a human being and suffered the way he suffered, it means that he is the one person in all the universe who can look at us and say,
I know what it’s like.
He is the one person in all the universe who can say
I’ve been there before. I know what you’re going through.
God became a human being, and if that wasn’t enough, He suffered the worst kind of suffering on the cross. He was torn apart in every way emotional spiritual physical. And because the infinite God suffered Jesus has an infinite power to comfort.
OK let me put it like this. When you are hurting really bad, how would you like a really good friend to care for you?
Or put it another way- when a really good friend is hurting how many of you struggle with knowing what to say? You’re doing a hospital visit, loved one is going through a lot of pain, and you don’t know what to say?
Now if you’re like me you natural impulse is to to give advice.
And some people have to learn the hard way.
I had a friend Mitch who was going through a really hard time so I took him out for dinner and gave him what I thought was really good sound advice. Well done Andrew! and at the end of our time Mitch says to me- Andrew I really learned something today. I’m like, Glad I could help you! He goes I learned that when someone is hurting really bad you should just be quiet and really listen and really try to empathize. That’s what I learned today. I’m like Glad you learned...wait a second, I didn’t do any of that. Oh you’re trying to tell me, OK…
That is not how we all feel. Like when you’re hurt and you want someone not to just spit out answers to be Bible answer Man you want someone who gets it. Who understands and feels your pain. Doesn’t just feel sorry for you but understands your experience…
They know cancer.
Or they know the loss of a loved one.
Or they know how hard a certain career is.
Or what it’s like to have cantankerous in-laws.
Or have a best friends stab you in the back.
They know what it is like. You you know what that feeling is like to have someone totally understand your mess and to just get you in that place.
Why did God become a human being? Because by becoming a human being and by suffering the worst kind of suffering, Jesus can say to you and me I get it. I’ve been there before. I know the kind of stuff you’re going through!
He can say, I am here with you!
The Incarnation is God’s way of giving Infinite Comfort to all of us who are suffering.
But, I would say, it’s even more than that.
Why would the 2nd Person of the Trinity become a human being?
Why would He leave the comfort and the glory of Heaven and become a human baby?
To provide Infinite Comfort to all those who suffer, but I would say there are still more reasons, and I would like to close on one more.
The Christmas Story reveals another thing about the very nature of God.
Why would the Galaxy Maker become a baby?
Why would cosmic power confine himself to an itty bitty living space?
I think it has to do something with this.
The very nature of God is self-giving love.
The willingness of Jesus to give up His life on the cross
is the same willingness He showed to come down from Heaven and become a human being.
Jesus loved us so much that He gave us His very self.
It wasn’t enough to send a prophet.
It wasn’t enough just to give us a book.
Jesus loved us so much that He gave us His very self.
John chapter 1 verse 14:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory
The Greek word for dwelt literally means to pitch one’s tent. So imagine us in Yosemite looking up at the stars and the Person who made those stars literally comes down to pitch his tent among us.
He pitched his tent to be with us
What does that tell you about the self-giving nature of God?
He loves us so much that is gave us His very best, He gave us Himself!
My brother was dating Rana’s best friend Michelle for about two years.
And he loved her so much and he knew that she was the one for Him.
And so for a couple of months he was planning the whole proposal.
And Rana and I were living downstairs from Michelle. It was a duplex.
And he was like, Can you guys help me set it up?
And so the big day comes, and Michelle drives across the Bay Bridge to drop David off at his apartment in San Francisco. And they say goodnight. And David runs to his car and he wants to speed past Michelle on the Bay Bridge to get to her apartment before she does. And He’s thinking, Oh, I hope she doesn’t see me!
Meanwhile Rana and I break into Michelle’s apartment to set things up. Lighting candles and putting in place this big huge refrigerator box, OK?
And then we hurry back home.
David gives us a call.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it in time. She is beating me to her apartment. You guys need to distract her.”
We’re like, OK, OK.
So when Michelle comes back home, we’re like, Hey Michelle, Why don’t you come over for a little visit? She’s like, Uh, OK.
So she comes in and we’re talking.
And I’m not kidding you, all the sudden my brother comes in upstairs. and it sounds like a herd of elephants. Michael is freaked out like what is going on upstairs in my apartment!
We’re like, It’s not David, OK? Oh that’s John the landlord who is fixing something up there. Yeah. We saw him. You should go up there.
Michelle goes to her apartment. Opens the door.
There are candles everywhere.
And right in the middle of her kitchen is a big refrigerator box
with a big bow on top of it.
And she opens up the box, and there is my brother
and later that night her proposes.
In effect he says, I want to be with you for the rest of my life.
Because when you really love someone
You will give to them your very self.
You want to be WITH THEM.
Who is this God who made the galaxies and then is willing to come down and put himself in an animal feeding box?
He is Immanuel which means, God with us!
Because when you really love someone
You will give them your very self
You want to be WITH THEM.
This is your God!
He is a manual,
God with us