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Advent 2016-The Reason for the Season

This week marks the first week of the Advent Season, which means that Christmas is four weeks away! It’s always good to have time off of work and school to spend time with family. But as many have rightly lamented, the season can actually bring out human sinfulness in the pursuit of greed, selfishness and materialism. One only needs to think of the fights over parking spots or watch videos of the mad dashes of the injured at Walmart.

Over the next few weeks I hope to reflect on Christmas and what it means.I’ll be going over the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth. You may find that the story is different than what you’ve thought before.One of the first people to hear that the Messiah was coming was Mary and Joseph. But the announcement did not come without difficulty. Luke tells us that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and have a child. Gabriel’s greeting to Mary was kindly enough-Gabriel called Mary, “favored one”, and told her “the Lord is with you!” Luke tells us that Mary was “greatly troubled” and wondered,“What sort of greeting this might be”. Gabriel assures her and tells her not to be afraid. The angel then tells her about the baby growing in her womb. It will be a son. His name will be Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” He will sit on the throne of David, will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and will have no end to His kingdom.

Needless to say, this was a huge amount of news to take in. Mary asks a natural question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The question is not just asking about how she became pregnant, but also a question of faith. How can this news be trusted? Gabriel explained that God is powerful enough to make this happen. Mary’s response was telling as to her character. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Joseph’s reception to the news was much harder to accept. At the time, Mary and Joseph were betrothed to each other. In that culture, for them to prepare to be married was a long process where the husband to be spent time to prepare the home. Betrothed couples were considered practically married. For Mary to be pregnant was as good as committing adultery. Matthew tells us that Joseph was not willing to publicly shame Mary, but was going to divorce her quietly. However, God intervened in Joseph’s plans and sent Gabriel to reveal to him in a dream His plans. Joseph was not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Here Gabriel also reveals information about the child. Mary is bearing a son and his name is to be called Jesus. Jesus’ name means “God saves”, and in this case Jesus will save his people from their sins. His name is also to be called, “Immanuel”, which means “God with us.” After awakening, Joseph did as he was instructed and took Mary to be his wife.

In this Christmas story, I see three points worth highlighting. First, Mary and Joseph’s lives were both upended by the news of Jesus’ birth. God uses all situations for his purposes-both good and bad. But God also delights in using people who were willing to submit to God’s interruptions. Mary declared her willingness to submit to God’s plan and Joseph took in Mary and Jesus. God used Mary to be the one who would carry Jesus in the womb and help raise Jesus. God used Joseph to protect and the baby and Mary so that Jesus could grow up in the world. God plans what will happen, but God also uses ordinary people.

Second, while we could focus on how Mary and Joseph’s lives were interrupted, the real story of Christmas is about how God interrupted human history. God was fulfilling a promise to rescue His people. This was a promise made long ago to Joseph and Mary’s ancestors. God had not forgotten his promise to the people of Israel. Nor had he forgotten the promise that God would use Abraham to bless all the nations. The message of Christmas is that Jesus stepped down into history and into the lives of ordinary people to show us what God is like.

Third, in the Christmas story, we’re introduced to Jesus. Jesus didn’t come into the world just to give you a better grade at school, make your life easier, give you a great career, solve your family problem, or help the poor. God certainly cares about these things. But Jesus came to save. He came to save sinners from the penalty of their sins. Jesus came to make people right with God again. He would do this by living the life we should have lived, and dying the death that we deserved.

Beyond the presents and the time with family, perhaps the greatest thing you can know this Christmas is that God was willing to interrupt history so that we could have the greatest gift of all-a restored relationship with God.