Sermons

 

The Visit

Pastor Terry Inman

12-16-12

 

The happy floor in the hospital is the neo-natal unit. It’s where friends and families gather around a big picture window for a newborn line up. We utter incoherent noises and make silly faces over a long expected newborn. This joyful ritual welcomes a very small, very vulnerable baby boy or girl into our world. If you’re here you’ve probably been there. It’s where life begins for most of us!  

God’s son was welcomed into our world by a young peasant girl named Mary. Her humble, husband-to-be, Joseph accompanied her. He’s an unsung hero but probably the brunt of jokes at the local carpenters union.  

A startling aerial display of angelic hosts invited some poor unpopular shepherds to be the welcoming party. Camels carrying Persian dignitaries began their pilgrimage being guided by an unusually brilliant star. 

THE VISIT, the arrival of Immanuel (God with us) was in its infancy! You would think the creator of the universe would make a visit to this planet a little more spectacular. No God’s son arrived the same way you and I did, in a mommy’s tummy. He wanted all of us to welcome Him into our world!  

We had just returned from India a couple weeks ago when Kristin and Sam our son and daughter-in-law emerged with evidence of their first sonogram. Kristin told us earlier they had decided they wanted to wait until the baby was born to know the gender. Now Sam was showing me the photo and asking me to attempt a guess at boy or girl.

I was clueless. I was straining to identify body parts when Sam says, well dad it kind of looks like there are two heads, one up here and one down here. I’m thinking, “Oh my God a two headed kid”. Then he said, “we are having twin girls”. Wow were we shocked and thrilled at the same time. Kristin said, at the Doctor’s office she was totally shaking with the news. 

I’ll never forget our firstborn son Jeremy. He came special delivery the day after Christmas. Seven sons and wives, 21 grandkids later we are still amazed every time we look in the nursery window at another new one.   

We are looking forward to picking two more out of the line up in May.

Baby announcements and arrivals are exciting occasions. They bring out our hopes and fears. Couples are drawn closer together in the intimate and sometimes anxious moments of the labor and delivery room. 

Everybody sighs relief and wonder at the first whimper outside the womb.

Another precious life has entered our world. God’s arrival on our planet came with all of this human drama and even more. The invitation list at that first Christmas is evidence that God wanted to be with all of us. 

Shepherds at that time were not regarded as reputable people. In fact there is some evidence that these shepherds could have been sentenced to community service, tending temple sheep, to atone for their offenses. 

The special star, possibly a comet that guided the foreign visitors to Bethlehem in search of a royal birth was certainly unusual. They were from a totally different race and religion. Their practice of astrology to interpret events was considered a science at the time. Tradition holds that they were royal dignitaries from Arabia, Persia, and India. Their gifts were typical of a diplomatic visit. God sent an omen to invite these outsiders. 

Now you would think the rich, famous and influential of the time would be on the invite list. Jesus was predicted to be the King of the Jews. Normally here on earth this kind of event would be pretty exclusive. I don’t think any of us expect and invitation to Princesses Kate’s delivery.  There is no entourage of the who’s who at this baby’s arrival. 

Why wouldn't God invite the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, the Syrian Governor Quirinius or Judah’s King Herod? You would think at least the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas would be on hand to bless the birth of the Messiah. None of the people you would expect to attend were there.  

It seems God went out of his way to make his royal entry very inclusive and unpretentious. He wants us all to welcome Him into our world.  He wants us to feel right at home. Shepherds or Kings, rich or poor, famous or forgotten, religious or not we are all invited to the birthday party. 

The Apostle Paul, one of the most respected religious lawyers of his day comments on God’s crazy attachment to all of us common folks. What seems a bit foolish to us is evidence of God’s incredible wisdom.   

“Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.” Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. 

Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. 1Corinthians 1.25-27 (NIV) 

The people, the place, everything about “The Visit” confirms God’s intentions to enter our world on a level playing field for all people humble enough to bend over into a small cave and worship the Lord of heaven. 

Christmas is a wonderful holiday, no wonder we light up the place. We decorate trees and wear red sweaters. We watch sentimental movies. We gift and re-gift everybody on our list. We eat all the stuff we shouldn't.  

We sing carols, we send cards, we visit relatives. We shop! We spend way too much money. It’s all-good even Santa is pretty cool!  But if we are not careful we can make it about everything else but the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I like what the bible says about some the people welcoming Jesus into our world that first Christmas. For the most part they were just normal folks scared and shocked, but very happy to participate. 

Once, Mary’s fears were calmed by the angel, she gladly accepted her assignment and headed off to her much older cousin’s home to share the good news. Elisabeth was already pregnant with her own miracle boy named John. She blessed Mary while her baby was kicking in her womb. 

Mary broke out with inspired praise. In the gospel of Luke she sang… 

“I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. 

His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. 

The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.  It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.  Luke 1.47-55 (Message) 

The shepherds were also pretty welcoming. Again the gospel of Luke tells us the dramatic story.An angelic being lit up the landscape delivering the evening news. 

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” 

As the startled shepherds are gathering their wits the angel is joined by a host of angelic carolers, “Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”  Luke 2.8-14 (MSG) 

Luke says when the concert was over the angles disappeared into heaven and the shepherds talked it over. Would you like to have heard that conversation? Did you just see what I saw? Did you hear what I heard? 

The bible says, after talking it over they agreed God had revealed something very important to them. They ran as fast as they could to find Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus cradled in a makeshift crib. 

Luke says, “Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.” Luke 2.15-18 (Message) 

It wasn’t too difficult for these typically snubbed shepherds to be overwhelmed by God’s incredible invitation to the nativity. They believed something that was beyond belief. They couldn’t keep it to themselves. According to Luke, the people who would normally discount their story were also quite impressed. They welcomed Jesus into their world!

Over two thousand years later, people are still impressed. People still believe. People are still welcoming Jesus Christ into their world. 

Also the kings, the wise, men the magi from the east, whoever they were, they were smart enough to recognize that they were being guided by God to discover His Christ. They too were welcoming. 

They were scholarly seekers. First they went to Jerusalem looking for clues about the star that they believed pointed to the birth of the King of the Jews. They sincerely wanted to worship him. 

King Herod paranoid about his future asked his advisors about this. They recounted Micha the prophet’s ancient prediction. “It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd my people, my Israel.” Matt. 2.6 (MSG)  

Herod sent the eastern diplomats off to Bethlehem under the pretense that he too wanted to pay homage.  They again followed their celestial GPS to the just right location.  

According to Matthew, “They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. 

Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matthew 2. 10-11(Message)  

These gifts weren’t very practical like pacifiers or pampers. They were expensive eastern spices, precious oils and gold to honor a king. These foreigners were thrilled to welcome God’s new ruler into their world. The bible says, “They kneeled down and worshiped him.”    

God invites all of us to welcome His son into our world. One of the most quoted bible verses says, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3.16 (NIV)    

Childbirth is full of hope and joy. Christmas can be more than nostalgic feelings about the nativity. It is God’s invitation to welcome Jesus Christ into our personal world. 

When welcome Jesus into our life we experience our own new birth. Peter one of Jesus disciples, talks about his own fresh start in life.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!” 1Peter 1.3-4  

Will you open God’s gift this season? Repeat with me a simple prayer of invitation as we welcome Jesus Christ into our personal world.

Dear father, thank you for the gift of your son the Lord Jesus Christ. I am fully aware of my sins and failures. I am grateful to receive forgiveness, knowing you paid for my sins with your death on the cross.

I put my simple trust in you and welcome you to take the lead in my life from now on. Amen    

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