“Jesus – The Unexpected”                                                              December 22, 2013

Isaiah 7:10-16 & Matthew 1:18-25                                               Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.              In preparing this morning’s sermon I became aware of a certain irony.

A.   We sing “Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus” and certainly the Hebrew people had long been waiting in expectation for the Messiah, but when he actually arrived he was unexpected.

1.    He was a surprise.

II.            You might say that this dichotomy begins with his earthly parents.

A.   If you look closely at the story of Mary and Joseph it begins with their parents.

1.    Back then you didn’t go out on a few dates with the man eventually popping the question, the woman making a decision and then you’d get married.

2.    Finding your future spouse was your parents’ job.

3.    They’d find someone they considered suitable and you would then enter into a binding agreement before witnesses that you would marry the person your parents picked. (Darryl Dash, The With-Us God, December 25, 2011)

4.     “Bring out the notary.”

5.    So you were in a binding agreement called a betrothal but you weren’t married as that usually occurred a year later.

6.    And even though you weren’t technically married the only way out of the agreement was to get a divorce and that wasn’t easy and generally not acceptable.

B.   In our Gospel lesson for today Joseph learns that he has an outstanding reason to file for divorce.

1.    Mary, his betrothed, is pregnant and he knows that he’s not responsible for this fact.

2.    He could follow through with the wedding but if things went forward could he ever trust her and what kind of relationship would they have?

3.    Plus at the wedding the baby bump would show and the gossip would be that he was responsible and that they couldn’t wait.

 

4.    But if he publically divorced her, which would leave him in good standing in the community, the more zealous members of their neighbors could act on the charge of adultery and stone her to death.

5.    She was too young for that to happen to her and it was an awful way to die.

6.    He’s thinking hard on the divorce option and how to do it quietly to protect Mary and be merciful when surprise – an angel shows up to talk with him and convince him that he should marry the girl because she is bearing the Messiah and his name is to be Jesus.

C.    There it is – Jesus the unexpected.

1.    As the Rev. Darryl Dash, a pastor in Toronto, Canada, has pointed out Jesus is not the result of any human initiative.

2.    No one thought up Jesus.

3.    There wasn’t a committee formed in Jerusalem or Bethlehem or Nazareth to create Jesus nor did two earthly people create Jesus.

4.    God did this by approaching Mary, telling her that the time had come for the Messiah to be born and would she help by bearing the child and Mary said “yes.”

5.    And that’s the way we Christians tell the story of Mary and Joseph being surprised by Jesus showing up in their lives.

D.   The truth is that Jesus has been surprising people ever since and that’s good.

1.    Sometimes he shows up in a place or situation that you’ve never experienced him before.

2.    Sometimes he shows up when you wanted to cry for help but all you could do was groan and you didn’t think there was any way he could come.

3.    Sometimes he shows up when you weren’t even looking for him.

4.    Sometimes he shows up when the thought of him didn’t even cross your mind.

5.    That’s Jesus – just showing up in the middle of your life; an unexpected surprise. (Dash, The With-us God, December 25, 2011) 

III.          And here’s a second surprise about this unexpected Jesus – when Jesus shows up God shows up because he is Immanuel, God with us.

A.   We know this because the angel said so to Joseph.

1.    Jesus’ name is Immanuel which means God with us or if you prefer with us God.

2.    Wherever Jesus is, God is.

3.    God is with us whenever we play a role in feeding the hungry or healing the sick.

4.    God is with us as the bread is lifted, broken, and the words pronounced “This is my body broken for you.”

5.    God is with us as we meditate on Jesus hanging on the cross and he cries out what we at times can feel, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

6.    God is with us as we fight to make our way through disappointments and failures and rejections.

B.   People have long struggled with the thought not only of God being with us but most particularly God being with us in human form.

1.    Their line of thinking is why would God lower Himself to take human form?

2.    Why would God descend to enter this swamp of a world?

3.    Why would God expose Himself to disease and hunger and negativity and death?

4.    Why?

C.    And the answer is because God loves us and God knows we need rescued from all the things I just described.

1.    God knows what we are feeling – after all, God took human form, so He literally knows what we feel.

2.    God knows what it means to be tired and discouraged.

3.    God knows what it means to hurt and bleed.

D.   You see, next time you feel like saying, “God, you have no idea what I’m going through. God, you have no idea how bad I’m hurting.”

1.    God will respond, “But I do. I have been on earth in human form.” (Dash, “The With-Us-God,” December 25, 2013)

2.    And then Jesus was show you in the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side and say, “You feel wounded. God too.”

3.    “I have entered your world, and I know how you feel. I have been there, I am with you now, I care, and I can help.” (Dash, “The With-Us-God,” December 25, 2013)

4.    Folks, you want to know the meaning of Christmas – that’s the meaning of Christmas – Jesus is the unexpected because we never expected God to be with us.

IV.          The third and final thing I want to say about Jesus the unexpected is that while we know we are guilty of our sin is that it is surprising that he shows up to save us from that sin.

A.     We’ve all had someone show up at just the right moment and in a surprising way save us from some bad situation.

1.    Remember when you were learning how to ride a bicycle and maybe it was you father who at the last second reached out and grabbed the back of the bicycle to stead it so you didn’t fall over and hurt yourself?

2.    You were glad Dad showed up to do what he did.

3.    Or maybe you were standing on a street corner, waiting for the light to turn, not really paying attention, maybe letting your mind wander and you stepped off the curb too soon and there was a car coming but someone reached out, pulled you back and saved you from getting hit.

4.    You were thankful that person did what they did.

5.    The other day I was in line to pay for something and it was $18.01.

6.    I had a $20 and was searching my pocket for one penny when the woman next to me said, “Here’s a penny,” handed it to me and walked away.

7.    She didn’t have to do that for me – I didn’t even know her.

8.    I realize, it was just a penny but I was grateful.

B.   Those are all real life situations and someone unexpectedly showed up to rescue you and me from the circumstances, but think about Jesus showing up to rescue you from sin.

1.    People show up all the time to rescue someone from circumstances like I just described, but after you’ve committed a sin who is it that can show up to rescue you?

2.    There’s a lot of things family and friends can rescue you from.

3.    A few things even I can be of assistance, but sin?!

4.    Not much I or anyone else can do to help you on that one.

5.    When it comes to sin that is between you and God and since by your sin you’ve offended God why should He help you?

C.    But that’s what He does.

1.    That’s what God did at Christmas – He sent His Son to save us in a way that is unique, special and only Jesus can do.

2.    Jesus lived the perfect life that we couldn’t live, sacrificed himself upon a cruel cross and rose from the dead to provide us with a new life.

D.   Now, seriously, are you going to tell me you expected all that?

1.    A Christian named Mike Silva tells about the time he and his family was staying at a hotel in Nigeria in West Africa.

2.    There was a knock on the door and when Silva opened it he saw a smiling Nigerian gentleman ready to clean their room.

3.    Silva was thoroughly embarrassed because there were suitcases, curling irons and crumpled clothing sprawled all over the unmade beds as well as wet towels in the bathroom floor.

4.    Silva apologized profusely, but the young man replied graciously, “No problem, sir. For this reason I have come, to put your things in order.” (Dash, The God With Us, December 25, 2011)

V.            So here’s the conclusion for today.

A.   You are probably doing a lot to get things in order for Christmas.

1.    I suspicion that you are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus so you have expectations – but surprise.

2.    Jesus is unexpectedly going to do things for you beyond your wildest dreams; stuff you can’t do for yourself.

3.    For Jesus will show up in situations where you didn’t expect to see him.

4.    Jesus will bring God with him for he is Immanuel, God with us, God with you.

5.    And Jesus will do what no one else can do, he will put your things in order, those things you have sinfully messed up, because only he can do what the angel told a very surprised Joseph long ago, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)