The Christmas story is a remarkable story. It’s a story about the God of the universe who enters earth in the form of Jesus to accomplish one thing. To invite people into a changed life.
Jesus told us:
“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders – an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” MSG Luke 5:31-32
That’s what Christmas is all about. God entering into our mess to save us. That is why we are walking through the Christmas story with you. We read how the angel visited Mary. He was inviting Mary into an impossible story, a virgin birth, and it would probably end in scandal. This invitation was filled with stress and anxiety. How did Mary respond? With trust in God.
We said one of the greatest things that will steal our joy is stress and anxiety. It will steal our joy and leave you physically tired. What decision must we make to reclaim our joy? Trust.
Mary showed us what trust looks like. She said:
“I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” And then the angel left.” NLT Luke 1:38
Have you said that to God? If you haven’t, that’s why you walk with stress, anxiety and fear.
We then read about Joseph. Joseph had no idea what was happening. What is this young man confronted with? A pregnant fiancée who claimed God did it. Ya-right cause that happens! He had to feel betrayed. What does Joseph do after the angel visited in a dream? He let it go of his plans and did what God asked.
We asked you, who has betrayed and hurt you? That hurt can turn into resentment and anger and it will steal your joy — leaving you physically tired. What decision do we have to make to reclaim our joy? We must forgive and move on.
If you don’t, that hurt in you turns toxic and does damage to you. And you will loop in that story. You will always want justice and never get it. You will always want a pound of flesh and never get it.
Last week we looked at Mary and Joseph’s journey to give birth to Jesus. You would think that if you were giving birth to God, the King of Kings, your life would be blessed and anointed. Their reward for joining God’s entry into earth? Nothing seemed to work out the way you would expect. A 90-mile journey while being 9 months pregnant on a donkey. The city is so full, they had to sleep in a barn. They probably would not have posted #blessed. After the birth, they have to run for their lives to Egypt. That is more than 600-mile journey. Again, they probably would not have posted #blessed.
We said that one of the greatest things that can steal our joy is when we give our lives to Christ and things don’t work out the way we think they should. It makes us doubt if God is with us. What do we do when we face one challenge after another? We surrender. Surrender means we believe — God is in control and we can relax in that.
Today I want to read for you the story about the wisemen visiting Jesus.
1 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” NLT Matthew 2:1-12
We don’t really know much about the wise men. We know they came from the East but not much more than that. Bible scholars do believe they traveled thousands of miles in a larger caravan that would have taken months. We don’t know exactly how old Jesus was when they visited. But we do know this; they were looking to find Jesus. Because they studied the stars, they knew something big was going to happen.
They show up in the area and ask the question, “Where is the king of the Jews? We have seen his star.” What do we notice? They wanted to find Jesus, but they didn’t know exactly where to go next.
Is this you? You want to follow Christ, but you don’t know where to go next? What job do I take? What should I do with my life? How do I raise my kids? When do I retire? What does God want from me? Should I marry him or her? It feels confusing doesn’t it? We want clarity. We want to move into tomorrow with courage. We want a google map to explain what we must do step by step. And if we don’t have that clarity, we feel confused. Kinda like walking into a dark room not knowing how to get to the other side.
When we are confused, it can steal our joy. If can make us feel frozen. Scared. Unsure. We can begin to overthink things.
Notice something. The wise men were seeking Jesus. They followed after the star. It was not an exact map. If you feel confused, not knowing what to do next, I would tell you something that might drive you crazy. Follow after Jesus, go after that star. There won’t be an exact map showing you every step, but you will get there.
Do you know what God gave us to go after that star? The Bible.
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. NLT Psalms 119:105
Do you know what else God gave us? The Holy Spirit.
6 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. NLT John 14:16-18
If you aren’t walking with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, you will be confused in life. It will be a struggle to know what to do next. With the Bible and the Holy Spirit, God will walk with you and lead you.
Do you know why God doesn’t give you a perfect daily map to follow? Why He gives us the Bible and Holy Spirit? Because — He wants to be in a relationship with you. He wants to walk with you and guide you as you learn to trust Him.
Think about this for a second. If God gave you want you wanted, a perfect daily step by step map, you would never need Him. You would be off on your own. You would never need that relationship with Him.
I think the second reason God doesn’t give us a detailed understanding of the future is because we couldn’t handle it. If our life was a book and every year we lived was a chapter in that book, we wouldn’t be ready to read ahead. We would jump to the end of the book to read what will happen, but we wouldn’t be ready for it. We would miss every chapter that would prepare us for the end chapters.
Let’s get back to the story.
3 Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. “Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?” he asked them. 5 “In Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6’O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. NLT Matthew 2:1-12
The wise men searched after Jesus and it made Herod and the people in Jerusalem upset. They knew a new king would upset the political order. Herod wanted to find this new king and kill him so that he could stay on the throne.
You need to know something about following after Christ. Somebody around you isn’t going to be happy. They might even go as far as work against you. Going after God disrupts things. Maybe things in a marriage, a family or a community. People like control and they don’t want anything or anyone to disrupt that control. And that includes God.
Let’s keep reading.
Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. NLT Matthew 2:1-12
Did you see what happened when they found Jesus? They were filled with joy. They worshipped. They gave gifts.
Have you met Jesus? What I mean is, have you been transformed by God’s grace? People who have been redeemed by God’s grace are forever changed. They are forever aware of God’s love for them. They are forever aware that God loves their imperfections. Their spiritual DNA is forever changed. And you know what happens inside them? They are filled with Joy. They worship. They give. There is this beautiful humble brokenness about them. They realize God will now care for them.
Scripture talks about this.
2 The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? 3 The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome. MSG 1 John 5:2-3
What is your relationship with God like? Is it marked with joy? The kind of joy that says, ‘I am walking in spiritual freedom. I know God’s loves me and I am free from a life of anxiety, fear and guilt and shame.’
Is your relationship with God about worship? The kind of worship that says, ‘I can’t wait to worship on Sunday! I want to be with others and stand in God’s presence.’
Is your relationship with God about giving? The kind of giving that says, ‘Here is my first, here is my best, here is all of me.’
Or is your relationship with God… ‘troublesome?’ You do what you do out of a guilt. You hear about joy so you try to be joyful, but things of life take over. You hear about worship, but you really think six worship songs is over the top long. You hear about tithing at church, but you think God asks for way too much and so you settle for much, much less. So, you give little and it’s… ‘troublesome.’
What is your relationship with God like?
If you are walking through life and feel confused, it can steal your joy. God doesn’t give you a daily step by step program. He offers you so much more. A relationship with Him. If you feel confused, to find clarity, read the Bible and ask God, through the Holy Spirit, to direct your day.
Today, the invitation is to allow God to transform you.
I wanted to give you one bit of practical information. This is extra. This is bonus information. As you walk through life, I think the condition of your heart is more important than you being perfect and fitting into God’s plans perfectly. We see this in David’s life. He passionately loves God but David makes some huge mistakes. In all of it, God continues to do what God wants to do through David’s life. Obviously, I am not suggesting that sin is not a big deal because it is. I am suggesting that as you move into tomorrow, be more concerned about being spiritually healthy than stressing over fitting into God’s plans perfectly. Why? Because the Alpha and the Omega, the I AM, will move through your life.
Confused about your next step? Go after the star.