The book of Ruth in the Old Testament tells the story of a foreign woman who places her faith in God resulting in a life directed by that faith. Though the circumstances of life remain difficult and Ruth must struggle just to provide the basic necessities of life for her and her mother-in-law, what she finds is that God’s love is not measured by the circumstances of life and no matter how hard we may try, we cannot out give God.
Joshua 2 is the story of a sinful woman, in a sinful profession, among a sinful people who, though she possesses limited knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, places her total faith in Him and is transformed by His grace. Rahab was likely the last person anyone would have thought would be saved and make such a radical life change from the city of Jericho, but through her faith, she and her family were not only saved, she becomes the great-great grandmother of King David and is included in the family tree of Jesus Christ. On two occasions in the New Testament she is commended for her faith and lifted up as an example of what faith looks life in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. That’s some legacy for a woman with a past like Rahab’s.
Matthew records the genealogy of Jesus Christ through Joseph. Though there appears to be increased interest these days in uncovering our family tree, there still seems to be a general disinterest when it comes to understanding why there are genealogies in the Scriptures. Perhaps this is related to our misunderstanding of the value of uncovering the riches of our spiritual family tree. Matthew’s genealogy records over 40 male names and 5 women. The presence of any women is unusual and would have been culturally controversial, but the presence of these 5 women borders on scandalous. For some reason God, through Matthew, included these 5 women in the genealogy of Jesus, drawing our attention to their stories found in the pages of Scripture. Through the stories of these women we learn that sometimes God works His will in the midst of the whispers of scandal, illuminating His grace.
Genesis 38 is a sad story of what happens when people live self-centered lives, that are nearly void of any concern for one another or for God. By the end of the story everyone has in some way wronged everyone else and there is not a person in sight who walks away unscathed or un-scarred by the selfish acts of themselves and others. Yet, both Judah and Tamar are included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 1. Why would God draw anyone’s attention to such a sad story? In the midst of this mess we find a truth worth treasuring, that what God purposes He will perform.
Advent is a time in which we look toward the advent of Jesus Christ. We look back toward His 1st advent with celebration and rejoicing, and we look toward His 2nd advent with anticipation. As we wait for His 2nd advent we want to wait well understanding that God has purpose in our waiting. We may wonder in our waiting if God has forgotten or is simply not taking seriously His promises, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s patience is a gift for humanity that allows us time to embrace the redemption that is available through His Son Jesus Christ.
This is a pair of sermons looks at Christmas through the lense of John 1. Series and message descriptions and audio are found at the following link http://www.morningstardayton.org/resources/audio/series/info/christmas-unwrapped
My wife and I are polar opposites when it comes to embarrassing moments. She is like an embarrassing moment magnet whereas I can count on one hand the number of embarrassing moments I’ve had in my lifetime. So when I do have an embarrassing moment my wife relishes the occasion and reminds me of it frequently, in love of course. That is why our Christmas tree excursion of 2006 will go down in the annals of history as one of the best for my wife.
The weeks leading up to Christmas were a bit cluttered for us that year so we didn’t have a whole lot of flex time to utilize as we went about the usual Christmas decorating preparations of hanging the outside lights, redecorating and rearranging the interior then purchasing and decorating our live Christmas tree. We’ve always been a little nostalgic when it comes to Christmas trees, seeking to make the whole ordeal a memorable experience and not just a purchase. So we’ve always sought out tree farms and went the ‘cut your own and drag it back’ route. That was our desire in 2006 as well and though we were unable to cut our own tree it still was a memorable experience and not just a purchase.
It was business as usual as we arrived at the lot. We carefully trekked through the rows and rows of pre-cut trees and narrowed it down to three or four of our favorites and then went about listing the pros and cons of each one. One was scarce on the bottom but had a nice full top, another was nice and full on the one side but the other looked as if someone had taken a pair of hedge clippers to it. Still another one was nice and full but quite out of proportion. We finally settled for one that wasn’t quite as full but was proportional throughout. We paid for our purchase, had the tree shaken and bundled and then I began the process of securing the tree for transport.
Maybe you’ve heard it said, “The best laid plans of mice and men,” well I’ve heard it too and all I can say is that my idea for securing our tree looked a lot different in my head than it actually turned out. Our vehicle did not have a luggage rack so I had to find a little more creative way to secure the tree to the roof. Though I was never a Boy Scout I’ve learned to tie a pretty mean knot and exercised my craft on the driver door mirror of our little SUV. Satisfied with my handiwork I flung the rope to the other side of the car and looped it around the mirror on the passenger side door. I’m sure many of you can see where this is going already. Fortunately for me, for reasons no more profound than I couldn’t tie the knot tight enough around the mirror on the passenger side I chose to go a different route and opened the door and tied the rope around a handle on the ceiling of the car. Satisfied with my efforts I tucked the excess rope under the passenger seat told my wife to jump in and proceeded around the front of the vehicle. As I did I noticed two employees watching me out of the corner of their eyes. It appeared they were smiling and their shoulders were bouncing a little. I shrugged it off and thought nothing of it until I reached the driver door and tried to open it. It came open about an inch and stopped. It was clear now the two employees were laughing at what they knew was coming and now my wife had joined them. I had secured the tree and it wasn’t going anywhere, but neither was I, at least not through the driver’s side door. I walked back past the laughing employees, asked my wife to collect herself enough to please step out of the vehicle then crawled through the car to the driver’s seat laughing a little myself as I did. Like I said, we may not have got to cut down our own tree but it certainly turned into an experience.
Whether you are an embarrassing moment magnet like my wife or more like myself we all need to laugh at ourselves every once in a while. I’ll be the first one to tell you we must take life seriously, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously. There was a time in my life when I would have wanted to let my wife and those two employees have it for making light of my mistake and not warning me about what I was heading into, but what would that have got me? A night on the couch and a black eye or two, instead I got a good laugh and a memorable family experience to cherish. I’ll take the embarrassment and the memorable experience any day.
At the age of eleven I went through a phase in which I just needed to know what I was getting for Christmas before Christmas morning. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know these secrets in my younger years; it’s just that my methods became a little less conventional. In earlier years I would simply find out what my sister was getting for Christmas and then bribe her with the information. For every two Christmas presents she would tell me I would tell her one, but her information was usually not very accurate and neither was mine really. As my sister got older and wiser this method became less and less effective. For some reason she didn’t want to know what she was getting before Christmas, if you can imagine that. She mumbled some nonsense about ruining the surprise. So I was forced to go it alone.
As I look back on that Christmas season now I am amazed at how clever I was and how determined to uncover the secret wrapped in every last box displaying my name.
Most of my operation took place on one night. My family was headed to a friend’s house to make some hardtack candy, but I was unable to go with them because I had been in bed with a fever for a few days. Although I was feeling much better I didn’t let on so that I would have the house all to myself for several hours. The plan worked magically. Mom kissed me good-bye then the family loaded in to the station wagon and drove out of sight. As soon as they were out of sight I sprung into action. I knew the presents were likely somewhere in my parent’s room so I slinked into their room and began my search. There was no sign of presents under the bed. Dad’s closet was empty too. The storage trunk at the end of the bed was also a bust. I was beginning to lose heart wondering if maybe the merchandise was being stored somewhere off site, but then I opened Mom’s closet and struck the mother-lode. (No pun intended) There, staring me down from the corner of the closet was a stack of presents from floor to ceiling. My pulse began to race as I checked the clock to see how much time it had taken me to find the stash and how much time I had left before the family arrived back home. It had taken me much longer than I had hoped to find the plunder, but I still felt there was enough time to uncover the secrets hidden underneath the festive wrapping.
I quickly ran downstairs to the basement, grabbed the tools I would need from Dad’s workbench and ran back up the stairs. I made a mental note of how everything was situated in Mom’s closet so I could put things back exactly as I found them, thereby leaving no trace of my presence, again, no pun intended, in the closet or the room. Then I carefully unwrapped and rewrapped each gift with my name on it (I’ll leave out the detailed process so as not to corrupt any young and impressionable minds). I was so excited as I came to the end of the stack and realized that I was getting everything I asked for. My parents were great! About two hours after the process began I was back in my bed grinning from ear to ear as much over my successful mission as the treasures that awaited in Mom’s closet. But those feelings of elation quickly turned sour.
I got a lot more than I bargained for from that night of covert operations. It was wonderful finding out what my presents were, but it just wasn’t the same as the wonder I had experienced on past Christmas mornings. I was excited about what I was getting but I had no one to share it with. I found out it’s not nearly as fun opening a present with no one around to share it with. I was forced to hold all my excitement in and the longer I held in my excitement the less exciting it was. Those two weeks before Christmas were miserable. I got to the point that I could barely look my parents in the eye because I felt so guilty. I went to bed on Christmas Eve with a pit in my stomach and woke up Christmas morning dreading the festivities. It was the worst Christmas experience of my life.
Though the curiosity about presents has never waned that was the last Christmas I sought to destroy the wonder before its appointed time. I learned a valuable lesson that year; some things are meant to be enjoyed within certain boundaries and when they are taken outside those boundaries, there is still a measure of enjoyment but it pales in comparison. The baggage that goes along with wonder outside of boundaries is far too heavy a load for me, or any of us, to carry.