Series: The Miracle of Christmas
“Everyday Miracles // Message @ JRCC – Sunday, Nov 27, 2011
Text: Luke 2:1-7 // Series: “The Miracle of Christmas”
Good morning, everyone, my name is Brad Sumner, I’m part of the teaching and leadership team here at Jericho Ridge. I want to ask you as we begin this morning, what is your favorite Christmas movie? [shout it out]. Most Christmas movies specialize in one thing: a Miracle. Think of a movie like Miracle on 34th Street, the classic 1947 Christmas story where a department store Santa is put on trial to see if he is the real thing. How does he prove his legitimacy? By doing what only Santa can do – the miraculous. Or think of the made for TV movie Christmas special plot line. The impossible becomes possible, usually thanks to divine intervention or some form of the miraculous. It seems that more than any other time of the year, Christmas highlights the possibility of the miraculous. We even have a name for this: it’s a Christmas miracle!
And so this advent season, we’ll be looking at the various miraculous elements surrounding what author C.S. Lewis called The Grand Miracle: the birth of Christ. The amazing thing to me as you read the Bible, is that the time surrounding the birth of Jesus was a period in human history when there was perhaps more significant and overt supernatural activity than at any other juncture. The ordinary elements of first century Palestinian life – shepherds, stars, mangers, politics, marriage relationships, pregnancy – were all so infused with the extraordinary that it still inspires awe and wonder.
So next week Pastor Keith is going to look at the birth narrative in Matthew chapter 1 and explore what the Bible teaches us about
Dec 4 – Angels. Then on
Dec 11 – Kids @ The Ridge Christmas Program – They’ll be telling us the Big God Story, perfect to invite friends, parents, neighbours to. On
Dec 18 – Prophecy Simeon and Anna in the temple where God gives them a special and unique word for Mary. We are also privileged to have with us (with special musical Guest Russ Rosen) who closes the Santa Clause parade out every year. Will be high energy and lots of fun!
Christmas Eve - Saturday, Dec 24, 6-7 PM Why doesn’t God do miracles all the time? With a devotional entitled “A Message in the Stars” by Pastor Keith. Fantastic invitational opportunity! Printing up postcards and mailing them to 12,000 homes in partnership with 6 other churches here in our neighbourhood.
Sun, Dec 25 – NO GATHERING
Jan 1 – ONE: A Celebration of Unity – 2,500 people in the gyms to start the year off right with a declaration that we stand together to reach our city
And all of this traces back to the miraculous birth of one small child some 2,000 years ago. That night when very God of very God choose to become human and to, in the words of John 1, make his home among us. So this morning, we’re going to focus on Everyday Miracles I want you to turn with me to Luke chapter 2 and I want you to do something very difficult, if not impossible for many of you. Pretend you don’t know the rest of the story. Or the other parts of the story. Or if this helps you, pretend that somehow we have lost the other historical manuscripts of the New Testament so that all we have is Luke 2:1-7. As tempting as it might be to read past verse 7 physically put your hand there so you can’t. Pretend with me for a moment that this is all that we knew about the birth of Jesus and tell me if you still think it is miraculous. I’ll be reading from the NLT…
[3 Scripture Slides]
It struck me reading this text, how very un-miraculous these 7 verses are.
On the Surface, the Story is very plain: Not many miracles here… Or are there? I want to suggest to you today when God is involved, the miraculous often hides in plain sight. And the danger then becomes not that we dismiss the handiwork of God because it is so overt, but rather because it is so subtle and behind the scenes. Sometimes we dismiss the work of God is our lives because we chalk it up simply to circumstances. Let’s look at the circumstances of Jesus’ birth:
- It’s just a census… (Galatians 4:4).
Or is it? Now, a census today is a relatively simple matter. We have all kinds of technology at our disposal. But think of how much work it was to take a census in the first century. You literally had to physically move millions of people from one place to another. All so that you could accurately take more money from them in taxes. The sheer logistics of this are staggering and it took the full might of the Roman empire to get this done. Which raises an interesting point: how did God decide when and where to send His son Jesus? Galatians 4:4 tells us that God sent Jesus “in the fullness of time” or at just the right time. You see, think of what had to be in place for the message of Christ’s birth, life and death to spread throughout the world like wildfire, transforming lives, cities and cultures as it exploded. There would need to exist a broadly common language & culture, the ability to travel in safety, a level of education that allowed for ideas to spread… oh, wait – all of this was present thanks to Rome being in power at the time of Jesus’ birth. So on the surface, it’s just a census. But theologically speaking, God had been at work in the annuals of history orchestrating the rise and fall of governments and powers so that at the exact right time, the fullness of time, the person and message of Jesus would come into the world. So you may think it’s just a census, but it is actually part of God’s unfolding work in history 100’s of yrs in the making!
You may say, OK, whatever. But It’s just a coincidence that Joseph is from Bethlehem… (Micah 5:2)
Actually, it’s not. It’s an evidence of God’s supernatural hand bringing the story of the redemption of all humankind to full fruition. After all, in the Old Testament there are dozens of very, very specific prophecies about how the Messiah will come into the world. Think about the wise men when they come to visit King Herod to inquire about the whereabouts of the one who has been born King of the Jews. Herod calls the Jewish religious leaders together and they remind him of the text in Micah 5:2 which says:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you,
one whose origins are from the distant past.
3 The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
will return from exile to their own land.
4 And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
for he will be highly honored around the world.
5 And he will be the source of peace
Yeah, it’s NOT simply a coincidence that Joseph was of royal descent and specifically that he was on the house and line of King David, who was from Bethlehem. It’s not a coincidence that he didn’t live in Bethlehem but that this census moved them back there temporarily for the birth of Jesus.
You’re beginning to see how all these things work together, so you’re likely not surprised Mary is NOT just Joseph’s pregnant fiancée.
- It’s just a pregnant fiancée…
Remember, the Old Testament was very specific about what ought to happen to people who had sexual relationships outside or before marriage: in ancient society, there were to be put to death. Stoned, in fact. And so the very fact that Mary survived the obviously public nature of the shame and the societal stigma of being demonstrably pregnant without having gone through a public wedding ceremony is in and of itself, a miracle. That Joseph decided to continue in the relationship is a miracle. That Mary wants to make an arduous journey through the dessert and over a mountain range in a combination of walking and riding on a donkey during her third trimester – this also is miraculous, when you think about it.
Every element of this event has the fingerprints of the Divine all over it.
- It just so happens to be a really busy night at the inn…
These parts to me, really are miraculous! That God would choose NOT to intervene and to free up comfortable lodging for the birth of His own son is truly astounding.
- It’s just a manger…
That the baby and mother survive the unsterilized and austere conditions of a birth in a cave or stable… Every part of this whole story is miraculous! It’s just that the language of Luke 2 doesn’t hint at that and so without reading the rest of the story, we can miss it.
But one of the things that Luke 2 can teach us, if we look harder, is that God can use the seemingly mundane and ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives to accomplish His purposes. You see, with God, there is no such thing as a coincidence.
In my own life, I have seen this to be true. Most often in retrospection because at the time, miracles are hidden in plain sight. When I was 3 years old, my parents moved to northern BC and endued up moving in three doors down from Stan and Loraine Pavlis…. Invited us to small group… ended up going to church, professing faith. So was our move to 1421 115th Ave a coincidence? Not at all.
Then, at age 13, we moved again, this time to Ontario. One of the things we needed was to find a new chiropractor. So one was recommended to us by a friend. Well, one day, my sister accompanied my mom to her appointment and the chiropractor just so happened to notice that my sister stood off balance. Right away he asked “have you every broken your leg?” which none of us thought she had. Turns out she had broken her growth plate in a tobogganing accident in Dawson Creek and he was a specialist in this area. So he was able to correct this while she was a teenager so that she wouldn’t suffer the effect of this long term. So was it a coincidence that the chiropractor we were referred to by a friend was a specialist in this area? No. God is always at work,
I love the way Darrell Bock explains Everyday Miracles this in his commentary on Luke:“Sometimes God’s work goes on quietly in hidden locales… The best way to show our amazement is with the response of a grateful, faithful walk that has ample donations of praise.” Like a great musical conductor, God is always orchestrating the events of history. The circumstances of Joseph’s life & lineage. The patience of Mary and her family. The intricacies & timing of Roman taxation law… all perfectly time to crescendo with the most miraculous event of human history: birth of God’s Son, Jesus.
So what’s the take away from Luke 2 about the nature of everyday miracles? One element is Reflective in Nature (looking back and asking questions about your story and your current situation):
“What elements of my life or recent experience have I seen as coincidence, but could very well be God at work?”
– Where you live or work or go to school (see Acts 17:26)
– What your family of origin experiences were
– What gifts, passions & abilities God has given you
– Things God spared you from
– Things God brought you through
– Resources God has given you
The other element might be anticipation and responsive in nature:
This week, God might desire to do something miraculous in the mundane…
– Will you be watching and anticipating?
– Will you be obedient when He invites your participation?
Because unless we pause to consider, unless we keep our eyes wide open, we too might just miss the miraculous hidden in plain sight. We might overlook the everyday miracles that are woven into the ordinary facets of our lives.
Let’s pray together.
As a way of responding to God, we are going to move into a time of communion or the Lord’s Supper. In many ways, this is a perfect illustration of God’s work hidden in plain sight. After all, it’s just bread. There’s a whole spectrum of belief on what happens at the table: some believe that nothing at all happens. Others believe that the bread actually becomes the body of Christ. We would be in the middle. We believe that the bread functions in the same way that miracles do: they are signs. They point to something, or more accurately, Someone.
It’s just grape juice. But at the same time, it’s more than that. Listen as I read from our Confession of Faith:
“The Lord's Supper points to Christ, whose body was broken for us and whose blood was shed to assure salvation for believers and to establish the new covenant. Through the supper, the church identifies with the life of Christ given for the redemption of humanity and proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes. The supper expresses the fellowship and unity of all believers with Christ and embodies remembrance, celebration, and praise, strengthening believers for true discipleship and service.”
Here at JRCC, the tables are open – it is an active but voluntary act of participation for all who know Jesus as Leader and Forgiver of their lives. When you are ready, you are invited to get up out of your seat and come. You can take the bread which represents Christ’s body, and the cup, which represents His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins - back to your seat or you can participate right there at the tables.
The prayer team is available close by so if you want to bring a request to the Lord in partnership with a trusted and wise friend, we encourage you to do that. By coming to the table, we are expressing something powerful – that we too want to participate in that fellowship, that unity, that celebration, praise, and we want to invite the infilling and strengthening work of the Spirit in our lives. Sounds like more than just bread and more than just juice to me…
The team is here to play one of the most powerful expressions of this musically – the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded. Some of the language might be hard to wrap your lips around because of its age, but the truths that it gives voice to are some of the most powerful expressions of the true Miracle of Christmas – the redemption of all humankind.