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Finding God in the Mess

12.16.18 Nathaniel Wall

  1. Guilt and Grace in the New Year
    12.30.18 32m 29s
  2. Christmas out of the Wilderness
    12.23.18 32m 36s
  3. Finding God in the Mess
    12.16.18 40m 25s
  4. The Greatest Christmas Gift
    12.09.18 28m 35s
  5. Where is God?
    12.02.18 36m 19s

Finding God in the Mess

12.16.18 Nathaniel Wall Christmas 2018 Series

Luke chapter 2 is where we’re going to be. I found a lot of comfort in this section of scripture this morning. One of the reasons is just because this passage helps me see how God works in strange ways to accomplish his plan. You know when you look on paper, you listen to sermons, sometimes when it comes to the Christian life, we can explain it in a very sanitized way, the truth is it’s messy. Living life is messy and so living the Christian life is messy, and it’s messy because we’re messy and people are messy.

Finding God in crazy and meeting God in the midst of the end of this year, is I really want to look at how do you meet God in the crazy Christmas mess that is life? Truthfully we’ve said together, Christmas isn’t something that one time a year we celebrate this holiday, but what God intends with Christmas is something that we should be celebrating every day. Not the going out and buying, as the world describes, all of this debt in the gifts, not that obligation part but the joy of what is represented by Jesus coming and how that should transform your life.

You get to the end of a year like this and you think about all the things you need to accomplish, all the extra activities that come along with it and it gets stressful, right? Life gets messy. When I think about the messiness of life and just recognizing Christianity involves people and Christianity is messy too, that Christian history is no stranger to mess. It has its fair share of crazy things. People are nuts, and you know knowing that about people, I find comfort in that sometimes. Like I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to shop somewhere like walking to Wal-Mart to buy some milk or something for the family and maybe you guys have run into my in public like this, but I am one that I always talk to myself. Wherever, I read a lot, and so when I read I think about it and I’m a verbal processor. When I’m thinking about things, I’m always talking to myself.

I’m like, man if someone ever sees me, they’re going to think I’m crazy but most of these people I don’t know, so I’ll just keep talking to myself, right? But then I look in church history. I see people like Martin Luther from the 1500s, and it was known about Martin Luther that he talked to himself all the time, so I’m like oh good. I like my crazy ass company.

There’s comfort in that, and church history has a lot of that. God moves in our mess. God can use a crooked stick to work in his plan. When I think about Christmas, the nostalgia of what Christmas has become for us really started at the end of the third, and the fourth century with a guy names St. Nicholas or as the Deutsche would call him Santer Klaus. We call him Santa Claus today, but he was one that came from a wealthy family. Parents died young. He went on to use that wealth to bless the lives of others and especially during the Christmas season, recognizing how Jesus was the greatest gift and wanting to model that gift. He gave lavishly out of his life.

During that time of St. Nicholas, as he passed away, there were two other Christians that came on the scene, one named Jerome and the other one named Gregory. They came at a time where there was this movement in Christianity called hermits. I don’t know if you know much about hermits, but hermits literally means desert dweller. I’m looking at a room full of them today, right?

By the fourth century, the movement of hermits became somewhat of a popular thing. What happened was Christians knew they didn’t want to sin, so they moved into the middle of nowhere to avoid temptation. They called those people hermits, desert dwellers. The world was bad. I want to follow God. I want to get away from all this. They moved out to the middle of the desert to share this rigorous lifestyle of forsaking sin to follow after the Lord.

One of the crazy things that happened to them, they then decided it’s not good enough. So they were still close to the world. They go out in these deserts, and then they decided, you know what? We should build towers, because not only do we need to get away from them, but if we get really high up, then they can’t bother us. Then, in the sinfulness of human beings and the mess that we make things, as if towers weren’t enough, then the hermits decide to start oneing up each other. Whoever builds the highest tower is the more godly. My tower’s bigger contest.

When you go to look in church history, you actually see these figures, hermits with towers. People painted these things, these godly people right? That climb these towers. One of the individuals that built the tower was named Jerome. The reason Jerome became a hermit is because Jerome came out of a promiscuous lifestyle when he knew, before he knew the Lord. He came to know the Lord and he wanted to leave that. It was a temptation for him, and so he goes out in the desert and he thinks that that’s going to curb his sexual drive, and he gets out there and he finds out you know what? It’s not so much in what we do. It’s in the heart of who I am and you can’t get rid of that.

To occupy his mind, Jerome learns the ancient languages that the Bible’s written in. Jerome actually decides the tower thing ain’t working and he comes back down, and the early church uses Jerome and his ability to understand the original languages of scripture, to translate the Bible. He translates it into Latin and that Latin translation becomes the use, what the church uses for 1000 years in history.

While Jerome is being a crazy hermit, shortly after St. Nicholas, this other guy comes along named Gregory. Here’s a picture of Jerome by the way. Then a guy named Gregory comes along and Gregory, alive at the same time as Jerome. They’re probably building towers next to each other, competing over whose tower is bigger, but Gregory also goes out and he realizes you can’t really stop your sinful nature just by isolating yourself from people. That what we really wrestle with is within ourselves. So Jerome gets down off his tower and he becomes a pastor, and Jerome actually grabs a hold of this movement that Santa Claus had started, this idea of blessing lives of people, especially around the Christmas season.

We have in history, Jerome records one of the first Christmas sermons that we have in writing. A portion of it, just to give you a little understanding of where Christianity and Christmas, how it all came together. Gregory said this in his message. It says this is our present festival, talking about Christmas. “That it is this which we are celebrating today, the coming of God to man, that we might go forth or rather, for this is the more proper expression, that we might go to God. That putting off the old man, we might put on the new, for where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

“Therefore let us keep the feast, not after the manner of the heathen festival, but after a godly sort. Not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world. Not as our own, but as belonging to him who is ours or rather as our masters.” So what Gregory is recognizing even in the world around, Gregory, his life was messy. I mean he bit a tower for God’s sake and lived in the desert, right? That’s just odd right? But he comes, he comes off this tower and he continues to use his life to minister for the Lord.

He’s looking at the world around him and you realize the world around him is messy. They had this celebration called the winter solstice and they would honor false deities during this time. They see this as an opportunity to leverage for God’s glory. So Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25th, but they saw this as an opportunity to speak into culture about the gift that is Christ. They began to use this time period, rather than honoring false gods to then honor the one true God.

He’s talking about this in a story, that let’s grab hold of this holiday and make it ours and honor Jesus in it. I think that’s, in the middle of the mess of our lives, that’s the challenge we face this season and every season. Christmas was something that, when you look in Christian history, in the middle of the mess that they sought to honor God, at least by the third, fourth century.

Even today, we’re losing some of our tradition of what Christmas represents for us, but we’re going to look at the gospel of Luke chapter 2 in a minute, but when you go home and you look at your Christmas tree, Christians get crazy about Christmas. People take very hard stands over what it represents, but everything God created is all moral. Meaning, it’s what you do with it that determines if you glorify God with it or not. Things in this world aren’t inherently evil. It’s the twisting that man makes of it that determines if it’s used for evil or if it’s used for God.

Christmas can be that way. The origins of what Christmas represented and the winter solace was, it was pagan, but Christians started creating tradition around it to honor God. When you go home and you look at your Christmas tree, on the top of the tree, there’s typically two ornaments that we put there. One is an angel, right? What’s the other? Star. When you read the Christmas story in the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke, in the gospel of Luke, you’ll see in chapter 2 today, when the shepherds are called, who meets them in the air and declares Jesus is born? Angels right?

The Wise Men in the book of Matthew, what do they follow to get to Jesus? The star. In the gospel accounts there’s two things that appear in the sky. It’s either an angel or a star, and your Christmas tree becomes a declaration of that gospel message. There’s imagery of what Christianity has portrayed around this Christmas time that we can utilize to honor God with our lives, in the middle of the mess that life becomes.

You look in church history, yes, it is messy because people are messy, but God uses that mess for his glory. You know the same thing’s true with the Christmas story. When you look at the Christmas story, I think we’ve sanitized it today. We sing nice fluffy songs about it. In our culture, we tend to think of it in very positive ways, but when you really look at what the story is, it is a crazy messed up story.

In fact, if I were just to start in Luke 2:1, what Luke is saying in this gospel, in the very beginning, “Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth, that was the first census taken which Corinius was governor of Syria. Everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.”

Now what the author is actually doing here in this beginning chapter, he’s positioning some thoughts for you, for all of us to consider. The identity that he begins in making, is this thought of Caesar Augustus. He’s the one that puts this in motion. This is the reason why Jesus is born in Bethlehem. This Caesar Augustus calls for a census, which requires everyone to go back to their hometown, where they’re originally from in order to take this census. But here’s the interesting thing with Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus’ name is actually Gaius Octavius. Gaius Octavius is really the first one to take on this title for himself in Caesar, calling himself Caesar Augustus. This name literally means ruling majesty. He looks at, he walks in one day, looks at his friends and is like, don’t call me Gaius Octavius anymore. Only my mama can do that, right? I want you to refer to me as ruling majesty. You can imagine his friends. Okay, whatever. He walks into the room. Look everyone, ruling majesty.

But what it actually is, is a claim of deity. He’s calling himself God. Here comes ruling majesty. Here’s the interesting thing about calling himself God. He’s not a very good one, because he doesn’t even know who he rules over. In the sovereignty, it says in verse 1, he gives this decree. He is sovereign, right? In that sovereignty, it’s like I don’t even know who’s under me. Make them all go back to their hometowns. I need money so I can tax them.

So he calls them back to their hometowns. The intentions of the author in this story, if you even look in your Bible, you’re going to see this, is that the author actually will, in the translation of the English, he takes the initial chapter 2, and he sort of writes this paragraph of Gaius Octavius, Caesar Augustus, and then he starts with another paragraph. In the next paragraph, some start in verse 6 or verse 8, but this second paragraph introduces you to another character.

It says this, “To the shepherds, the angels said to them, do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David, there has been born for you a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” What this story is doing is contrasting between two rulers. Here you have Gaius Octavius, ruling majesty, and now while he is ruling, though he doesn’t even know who’s under him. He doesn’t even have that sovereign ability. Then there is this other ruler.

It’s sort of like the author is giving you two choices. Who are you going to follow? If you just stop right here, the story ends here, this is a pretty insane spot. You can either follow the guy who calls himself ruling majesty, or the little baby in a barn wrapped in rags. Choose this day who you will serve, right? It’s like, uh?

So the author’s starting to position these contrasting ideas about really what this Christmas story should matter to us. Now the gospel of Luke goes on from there in building the case for what makes Jesus so glorious, but you see how this author is introducing us to this idea of this Christmas mess, that ruling over Israel is Gaius Octavius, who this guy is just two sheets to the wind. He is insane in his mind of what he thinks he is.

Then, a baby born in a barn next to a donkey, of which you’re called to worship. Then the story goes further. Verse 4. “Joseph went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth to Judea because of Caesar Augustus’s order, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and family of David. In order to register along with Mary who he was engaged to him and who was with child.” That last line’s supposed to shock us there.

You think of this story as we historically know it, most people estimate Mary’s probably around the age of 15. While she’s traveling from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, like on the best day, like I Googled this on Friday in the middle of the day, which would have been at night in Israel. 97 mile journey, takes you an hour and 51 minutes when it’s light traffic, and there is a toll that you have to pay. But if it was the time of Jesus’ day, you think how far can you go when you’re nine months pregnant?

Could you imagine this conversation between Joseph and Mary? I bet it wasn’t a very gracious one, really. Nine months pregnant, oh yeah put me on the back of that donkey. I want this journey, right? But that travel, 90 miles, on the best day during this time period, going with your possessions, you’re looking, maybe 20 miles a day. Nine months pregnant, probably less than that. This would have taken them a week to get there, at best.

Most of us assume Mary probably would have ridden on the back of a donkey for a good portion of this journey if not all of it. It’s not for certain, but here she goes on this 90 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the text tells you in verse 5 that she’s engaged to Joseph, but they’re not married, yet she’s pregnant. So this is how this is going to look guys. Like, this family has to go down to where they’re from. All of the family that is spread throughout this land is meeting in this place. This is going to be a ginormous family reunion. You ever been to one of those? That’s really messy, right?

They’re gathering at this family reunion and here’s the hard part now. They’re going to have some explaining to do, in a very conservative culture, at a time period where being pregnant in this type of culture this way could have led to you being stoned. Yet, here they go on this journey, to explain to their family. Now I’m a virgin. The mess of what Christmas was.

Verse 6 and 7, it says, from there, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. She gave birth to her firstborn son and she wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. I’ve been at the birth of my three kids. I have yet to describe it this way. The days of my wife have been completed. That is not how it goes. They make it sound like Mary’s like, you know what? I think I’ll give birth now. I’ll be back in five minutes. The days were completed for her to give birth. That’s not how it goes down at all, but they just concisely say here … I’m sure if we let Mary take over the pen here, she might have a little more in the descriptor.

But Luke’s like, let’s just say it like this, okay? In verse 7 it says, “She wraps him in cloth,” which I’ll get to that in a minute, “And they laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.” Our picture of this is a little off sometimes. We like to sometimes think when you see the word inn, you’re like, oh yeah. Joseph’s going down to Bethlehem to check into the local motel. They booked with hotels.com, right? But unfortunately it was overbooked. Thank you Captain Obvious. So they had to find secondary accommodations, but that’s not how it goes.

In fact, the word inn doesn’t mean motel or hotel. You think of the way the story is unfolding here. They’re calling the family members to go to their original town to take a proper census. So all these family members converging on this town and so, when Joseph goes to this town, where’s Joseph going to stay? Well he’s staying with his family because he’s going there to be with his family, to be counted as part of the census with his family. He’s not a stranger here. He’s going to stay with his mom and dad, you know, or his brother or whoever else lives in the town.

This word inn literally is more like an empty room. So what it’s saying for us, is when they get to the home, where the whole family reunion is taking place, there’s no longer any room in the house. There’s no spare room to be found. During t his time period, especially people that weren’t of great wealth, they oftentimes lived in more like a barn. They would place their family living quarters sort of in the loft. Oftentimes they would build in a cave and they would have a lower part for the animals and sort of have sort of a split level. Just above the animals they would leave a little foundation there for their family to stay.

So what it’s saying is, in the split level entry to the cave, on the second floor, just maybe waist high with the animals, there’s no room there. Everyone’s hanging out. The whole family’s gathered together. Mary’s got an audience for this birth, but she’s down with the animals because this place is packed. Christmas is messy.

She wraps him in cloth. That’s not very good planning, right? You’re about to have a baby. Get a baby outfit. Rather than that, they’ve got some cloth. This cloth, some argue is very symbolic. In fact, it’s the way the shepherds are told to recognize him in verse 12. This will be a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. I can imagine being a shepherd in the field. You’re like, angels come to you, give this glorious presentation of the coming of the king. Caesar Augustus or Jesus. The angel’s like, okay, what do we look for when we find this king? It’s going to have a glowing aura? Will it have these trumpets blasting? Will an army be around him?

No, he’s going to be in cloth. That’s the sign. It’s like, okay we’re going through a poor community, looking for a poor kid, just like all poor kids were wrapped in cloth during this day. That’s our sign. All right. But people say that this is symbolic for what ultimately will be represented with Jesus. During Jesus’ day, before we had TSA, when we traveled online, most of us would like to take our luggage, but now that you have to pay, you need to put on three layers of clothes and just do your carryon, right? Save 50 bucks.

Traveling during Joseph’s day, the same way. You can’t take all that luggage. You have to downsize Mary. During his day, they would often take a strip of cloth, and they would actually create a belt out of it. They would wrap it around their waist, sometimes multiple times. With that strip of cloth, if anything happened on the journey, there was a wound, someone died, a baby is born, they could use that cloth to wrap around the wound, to bind up someone who’s passed away or even used on a baby.

When the baby is born, they take strips of cloth, unravel the makeshift belt and use it for the baby. The only other time in the New Testament that you have anything wrapped is when Jesus is buried. Some people look at this as symbolic of what ultimately is represented by Christ. His life was about his death. Here he is at his birth, wrapped. At his death, wrapped.

Then who’s the one that proclaims the birth of this baby? Joseph and Mary celebrating with the family. Who would God give, get to declare this to the world? Kings, rulers, high, prestigious figures? No. He picks the shepherds. The low men on the totem pole in the socio-economic status of society. The least popular people. The ones considered unintelligent so they’re just thrown out with the sheep. They’re the ones that proclaim the goodness of the coming of this king.

It says, “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keep watch over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened, but the angel said to them, do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there was born for you a savior who is Christ the Lord.” That statement right there is a fulfillment of a promise.

In verse 10, that it’s for all the people. That he’s coming in the city of David, which that’s where the promise was to come from, from the line of David, this savior, this rescuer, who is the messiah, the anointed one, the one who is the Lord that they had waited for, for all people. All the way back to the story of Genesis when God promises to Adam and Eve that one would come to crush the head of the serpent, the rule of the serpent.

Then he says to Abraham, that through his seed, all nations would be blessed. Jesus is coming for all people. It’s interesting today, you study in the New Testament, when Jesus came, he called the 70 apostles. Most people really don’t even recognize what that represents, but Jewish customs taught that at the Tower of Babel, when the languages were divided in Genesis, or when the people groups were divided, that the Jews had historically taught that when the people groups were divided at the Tower of Babel and multiple languages were spoken, that from that 70 people groups came.

God was coming for all people. That was his promise to Abraham. So when Jesus shows up and he calls his apostles, he calls 12 originally, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, but then he calls 70, as a declaration not just to Israel but to all nations. Jesus Christ the Lord has come. That’s the statement that the angels deliver to the shepherds to pronounce unto this world. They tell them, go look for the sign, the one where the baby’s wrapped in rags.

Then in verse 13, it says this, “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men, with whom he is pleased.” That word peace is a very rich theological phrase for the Jewish people. They even say it now when you gather for their, when they gather in their synagogues for worship. They’ll say to each other on Friday night, they won’t do any labor and they’ll say to each other “Shabbat Shalom” Shabbat Shalom, peaceful sabbath, peaceful sabbath.

They’re looking for that peace. They know mankind is looking for peace in their soul. From the very beginning, God created all things with order. Man sins. Peace is lost. In the middle of the mess, we need peace. That’s what he says. Praising God, glory to God in the highest, peace on earth among men.

When the angels had gone away from him into heaven. The shepherds began saying to one another, let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby, and as he lay in a manger when they had seen this. They made known the statement which had been told them about this Christ.

You can imagine how that looked, right? You rode to this house, and they’re just getting over the craziness of this birth. There’s this huge family reunion and all of a sudden, like 12 grown men just pop up. They’re like, we’re not creepy, we promise. We didn’t just come to this birth because we just like gathering around births. We’re here for a reason. Then he shared.

Mary’s group, it was a ragtag messy group. But there’s no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God. Then in verse 18 and 19, it really lays out for us the reaction to this moment, the craziness of Christmas. It says, “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds, but Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I think for me in the Christmas story, verse 19 is probably my favorite out of all the verses that share about Christmas.

But verse 18, just backing up for a moment, verse 18 really tells us the people didn’t know what to believe. They hear the shepherds and the response is that they wonder. When you do a word study in the New Testament on the word wonder, it’s sort of a mixed bag. Most often people wonder but don’t do anything with it. There’s a few verses where people wonder and respond in worship, but most often they just wonder and leave it. That’s kind of interesting I think for themselves, but they don’t participate in what it’s about, and they miss out. They ask the question, I wonder what happened? Maybe the wondered if the shepherds have had too much of grandpa’s cough syrup out in the field. They wondered.

But then it tells us Mary. They use this word to introduce Mary, to kind of contrast the reactions that we should have, as if Mary becomes the example. There are those who hear this story, there are those who are going through the Christmas season and kind of know what it’s about, sort of wonder at it, but never really dive into the significance of what this season means for us, not just at this time of year, but for all of our lives. There are those who will just wonder at that. But then there’s Mary.

See, she’s sort of, in the contrast of these two verses, she becomes the example of model for us, as if to tell us, all these crazy things that have happened with Christmas, starting with Gaius Octavius, Caesar Augustus who thinks he’s the ruling majesty, down to the birth of Jesus, and here becomes the way that our hearts should react to this moment. But Mary.

It says Mary treasures these things. Mary teaches us, no matter how messy it gets, take time to worship. I mean think about worship. Worship doesn’t stop the chaos. Worship is really finding God in the middle of the chaos. You don’t have to get life perfect before you come to God. You come to God in the crazy. All the family around, all the animals just bleeding away, in the manger and all these crazy shepherds come in. In the middle of all that mess, Mary looks at the heart of God.

It says she treasured all things and pondered them in her heart. Treasuring literally means that she held onto this. Like you got something in your life that you treasure, something you’ll lock up. Something you’ll keep away. Something you don’t want anyone else to really know about because you don’t want it to go missing. That’s sort of the idea of what Mary’s doing here, not that she doesn’t want to share this, but she’s holding onto it in such a way that this is her treasure.

She ponders it in her heart. This word ponder is more than just I kind of wonder. This word ponder means to forcefully grab hold of and connect it to something. What is she connecting it to? It tells us in the story, her heart. She’s grabbing hold of this, and she’s making a collision with her heart as to what God’s doing. Now the text also gives the idea that she doesn’t completely understand. She’s a 15 year old young lady going to a place because some crazy king told her to do this, and in the middle of these shepherds going crazy around her, and a family reunion taking place. She is like, God, what is going on?

She doesn’t want to miss the moment. So she treasures it. She takes it to her heart, looking fort he bigger picture. She was holding onto these Christmas events, but she wasn’t sure exactly what God was doing. When I look at this verse, at first I’m unsettled by Mary’s unsettling. I want Christmas like I remember Christmas. It comes with a nice story and a good bow tie at the end, right? Everything’s happy. It’s all warm and fuzzy, but that’s not the way that Mary describes Christmas. In fact, if you were to read the rest of Luke, you’ll see as Mary raises Jesus, in verse 49, 50, 51, that Jesus disappears from her one time as a young. It’s the only story of Jesus being a young guy.

It tells us she still doesn’t even understand, but she’s still pondering these things in her heart. She’s holding onto this, just looking for the way God’s going to tie this story together. But this story is unsettling. It doesn’t help my anxiety. But as I look at the story, I see the beauty of finding God in the uncertainty. Life is messy. We don’t get to make it cookie cutter sanitized. The truth is, it’s when things are uncertain though that we’re driven to find the things that are certain.

It’s in the imbalance of life and the mess that things are, when things aren’t as they should be, we look for the things that are certain. The thing that Mary knows is certain is God. God how can you work? You know with God, we get key questions answered for life, who, what, when, where, why? Like, God who are you? What are you doing? When are you coming? We see that story here. Where are we going? Why are you doing this? We get these foundational questions answered with God but one of the questions that we don’t get answered in detail is how.

With God, you get his presence. You get his promises. You get the beginning told to you. You see the end of where God’s going. We really meet him in the in between of all of that and the how. God now how are you going to work this out. That’s exactly where Mary is in this story. She knows her God is good. She knows what he’s doing. He is savior. He is Lord. He’s promised this from the beginning. He knows he rules in all things and he will bring peace to all men on earth, but God how?

That’s where our hearts collide with him. That’s where Mary is in verse, in these verses, talking about worship. Knowing God’s presence and promises are given to us, knowing that God has the beginning and the end, we’re left with the question, God how? In that question, I think we oftentimes can wrestle with fear. When you look at the gospel story in the first couple chapters of Luke, and even in Matthew, the responses, the initial responses of the people when God comes near them is fear.

In Luke 1:30, when the angels appeared to Mary to tell Mary what’s about to happen, in her virgin birth, her initial reaction was fear. When the angels appear to the shepherds in the field in Luke 2:8-9, their initial reaction is fear. Fear affects our relationship with God but in the midst of that fear, God comes near to them and tells them peace. Fear could control but rather faith guides. Why? Because in the uncertainty of how, they’re reminded of certain things as it relates to God.

He is good. Both his promises and his presence, the beginning and end, are with him. If he is good, he calls me, though things aren’t as they should be. I can meet him in the uncertainty, grab hold of the one who is certain because he is good. Therefore Mary treasures and ponders. In this story, what we find is that God takes them deeper so that really, God can take them further. When we study the history of Christianity and you look at the course of scripture, God lays things out for us, the best Christians have come through some of the most refining fires in life.

I can wrestle with fear. I can stop in uncertainty. But God is good. Knowing that God is good, that’s why Mary says in Luke 1:38, I am his servant. Reality is, if it weren’t for the uncertainty of life, I probably wouldn’t seek the certainty of God, but it’s in the fog and the mystery of what life is, that drives me to look for how things could be better for the one who controls it all. God is good.

Isaiah 49:16, I love this statement that God writes to Israel. He says to them, actually in verse 15 he says, “I’m not going to forget you. Does a nursing mother forget her child?” Then God says, “I have engraved you in the palm of my hand.” It literally means I have tattooed you. God tattoos your name in his hand. Life is messy, but God is good. By his grace, his promises and presence are made known. That’s what Christmas is. Promises of God fulfilled, all people. The presence of God is come near for you. It’s not just Mary.

So when you think about what life is, the mess, the chaos that comes with it, the question in align with Mary’s story is what worries you? Where is your uncertainty? What keeps you from worship? Where are you walking in fog? Where do you practice fear instead of faith? Related to kids? Job? Marriage? Just trusting in Jesus? The best lesson learned at Christmas, trust in the Lord. Meet him in the mess. That’s where you grow. Hold on to what you know is true about God. Walk as he has called you and look for where he leads you. Worship instead of wonder, treasure instead of fear. Create a heart collision in the midst of chaos.

In so doing, you become like Mary. I was going to title this message because I want to be like the Virgin Mary, but I thought that was probably a little misleading. But rather, finding God in the mess. It’s crazy to think that in the middle of the Christmas mess, even though Mary couldn’t understand it, God was working all along. She just needed the patience to walk with him through it. In the midst of not understanding how is exactly where she met her God, and that’s where this story calls us to meet him too.