Well, we had some unrehearsed moments this morning and that’s what my message is about …..
The original Christmas story, that original pageant,was totally unrehearsed! The rehearsal comes when we try to reenact or retell that wonderous story. And it may be an elaborate event with a cast of hundreds and hi-tech backdrops and lighting effects. Or it may be a simple manger scene with children dressed in home made outfits.
But, when it comes to putting children in a Christmas program, even with all the rehearsing… How do you rehearse those unforgettable memories that are made, when two shepherds decide to joust and begin sparringwith each other using their shepherd staffs in the middle of the presentation?
How could we possibly rehearse for the moment when Susie does not like her angel costume and starts shedding her wings or she wants the costume that Janey is wearing and tries to trade while you’re trying to keep everything moving?
How do you rehearse for the moment when one of the wise men trip on the steps and spills frankincense all over the baby Jesus and Mary?
How do you rehearse for a sweet little six year old who has on a sheep costume, but because they borrowed her doll to play the part of Jesus, she keeps taking her dollout of the manger and insists on holding it, while Mary tries to take it away and put it back and they get in a fight.
Or what about the boys who, decide that singing, “Silent Night, Holy Night, Shepherds quack, at the sight” is too funny to resist?
A man and his family went to visit his mom for Christmas. Everyone went to see Santa together as a family. The children one by one sat on Santa’s lap and told him what they wanted. When it came time for the little boy, he yelled out " I WANT AN ATARI ONE GAME STATION!" After a slight silence he repeated it," I SAID, I WANT AN ATARI ONE GAME STATION!" The father intervened and said son, you don’t have toshout, Santa Claus is not deaf!" His son replied "I know Santa is not deaf dad... but grandma is!" (those unrehearsed times of our lives!)
Life comes at us with no rehearsal!! For that matter, how could we possibly rehearse for what happens in real life, when an unexpected pregnancy occurs or when life begins and someone struggles with the pressure from family about whether or not to abort the baby? How does a homeless person, who finds themselves on the streets, rehearse for the night when they have no place to sleep in heavenly or earthly peace for that matter? How do we rehearse for the times in life when the inn which may represent our job, or a broken marriage, has no room for us? How do we rehearse for those ugly things that occur, such as the sex trade which victimizes the holy and innocent children of the land?
In most of life we actually do not get a rehearsal. When the first time comes to change a fresh filled diaper from our sweet baby, we don’t get a rehearsal. On the first day the child comes home crying from school, because they were bullied, we don’t get a rehearsal. When our teen-ager misses his, or her, first curfew and we don’t know where they are what they’re doing and if they are safe. Or when the new boss on our job is upset with us and we know others have been let go in the company and then it happens, he hands us our notice.
When we get a call that our child has been rushed to the hospital, we do not have the luxury of a rehearsal. When our mom or dad or spouse dies suddenly, we do not get to rehearse the event first.
We do not get a rehearsal; and yet, every time we invoke the Holy Spirit, every time we cry out to Father God for help, every time we call on Jesus, we are rehearsing who to turn to when there’s no where to turn. Every time we trudge through the maze of disappointment, and keep going instead of quitting, we are rehearsing. Every time we suffer loss, and we refuse to let it identify us are rehearsing for the unrehearsable.
Jesus showed up one day, when we least expected, unannounced, in a remote region and a little knownplace where it was said that “Nothing good can come out of Nazareth”. But because Jesus showed up there –in the middle of an obscure, isolated nowhere place,Jesus can show up anywhere. And Jesus does show up -- unannounced and unrehearsed. Un-choreographed and un-vetted by the crowds. Jesus does not wait for things to be perfect before he arrives; he shows up in the imperfect things.
I love the word “Noel”…. In the latin it is “Natus” or to be born…. Or to put it simply it is God with a belly button. That describes the depth of his commitment to us, and the extent to which He went to relate to our human condition, that He might bring us out and bring us into a higher life!
In other words, Jesus shows up in that sickness of our child, in that broken commitment, in that lost opportunity, that failed deal… the emergencies, the disasters, the good, bad and ugly of our lives….
One of the more amazing things to me about the Christmas story is that it can’t happen without the people who are in the story. God does not just swoop in and make this story happen all by God’s self. Instead, for the story to happen, there needed to be willing people of faith and hope in the story. God doesn’t just want to do things to us, but He wants to work through us to do things! Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and the angels all drawn together to make it all happen according to God’s plan. And so, it is still true today, in our time, we will have an opportunity to do the same thing: By choosing to participate in the story, we will make the story of God’s redemptive plan happen.
So we find that the Christmas story, just like our lives, is a story of unrehearsed surprises …. Planned by God, but unrehearsed by the folks involved.
Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, King Herod, the shepherds, the innkeeper, and the wise men, were all unprepared for the surprise that heaven was putting together…
Like those life changing events that come unexpected for each of us…. Surprise!…. You fell in love…. Surprise!…. He asked you “Will you marry me”…Surprise!…. You’re pregnant…. Surprise!… The baby’s coming whether you are ready or not…. Surprise!…. Now, Your baby just told you they’re getting married…. Surprise!…. You’re going to have a grand baby…. Surprise!
Faith and trust in God is one of the best rehearsals we have, before all the surprises that come our way, and the surprises just never end! It would be safe to say that most of life is uncharted territory !!! ….A great example is when the church was praying all night for Peter who was in prison, and as they were praying in faith, he suddenly knocked on the door, they were amazed and shocked that it happened so quick… They were standing in faith but they were surprised at how God did it!!!
Could it be that as we move on from Christmas, we tooeasily throw the Spirit of Christmas under the bus…
I’m talking about the spirit of giving without expecting anything in return but simply relishing the joy of bringing happiness and cheer into the lives of others.
I’m talking about Peace on earth, which doesn’t begin out there somewhere, but in us where all those opportunities to disagree and argue and offend one another are waiting. That’s about being able to disagree without becoming disagreeable….
I’m talking about that unrehearsed thing we do called forgetting…. …. We don’t like forgetting so we make out lists for everything…(and then we forget where we put the list) Jesus came to this earth, so God could forget our past and no longer hold it against us…. But welabel people for the rest of their lives, because we don’t like what they did to us 10 years ago ….What if we made up a list of things we plan to forget each day,”…I will forget the offence, the hurt, the injustice, the rejection, the abandonment, and no longer let it identify me or that person…. One of the great gifts that we receive from the Lord is forgetfulness… it’s part of the salvation package… He forgets our past, our failures and our sins…
Oh, yes, and as we move on from Christmas….whatabout “Good will to men”… to truly rejoice when others succeed and prosper. To be able to cheer for someone who gets the promotion that you didn’t get… to be able to congratulate the person who got the new car you wish you had, or the nice home that you would die for!!!
Speaking of good will toward men…..and unrehearsed moments…. I heard a little story, that one day the Pope decided that he would help relocate all the Jews in Rome to the Holy land. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Jewish community because even though the Pope had made a decree, many wanted to stay. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would all be relocated. They met together for about 15 minutes and everyone was shocked when the Pope stood up and said, 'I give up. This man is too good. The Jews that want to can stay.' All the cardinals surrounded the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said: 'First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was one God and Father of all. Then I waved my finger around me to show him, that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?' Meanwhile, the Jewish community had surrounded their representive, amazed that this old, almost feeble-minded man had done what all their scholars had insisted was impossible! 'What happened?' they asked. (you have to remember what I said before, to get the punch line) 'Well,' he said, 'first the Pope held up 3 fingers indicating that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I held up one finger indicating that not one of us was leaving. Then the Pope waved his finger around, indicating that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I pointed down at the ground, letting him know that we were staying right here.' Then he took out his lunch, and I took out mine….
The angels of Christmas are such an awesome and amazing part of the Christmas story….They come clothed in glory and splendor, they bring a touch of heaven in earth… but notice that it is to much less glamorous folks that they first appear…. Folks that aren’t anywhere nearly as impressive as the angels. They’re just a bunch of regular Joes who were out in the field, trying to work and sleep and keep the sheep from being eaten. They’re guardians of the night, when beast of prey are prowling and danger lurks in the darkness. We might liken them to our military forces, or the police force, the fire department personnel, and perhaps those spiritual guardians such as pastors, prayer warriors, and oh yes, parents and grandparents who are dedicated to our safety and security. The unsung heroes who stand vigil as we go about our lives. Perhaps we should be reminded at Christmas to be grateful for this group of modern day shepherds who stand watch throughout the year in our lives and not leave our appreciation at the Christmas story…. It was the shepherds that shared with Mary and Joseph everything that the angels had said. And everyone who heard them speak were amazed by it. And Mary heard their words, and Scripture tells us that she “treasured them in her heart”. I trust we will treasure the message so much that like the shepherds, they went out to tell whoever would listen. Friends, Christmas truly brings to the world a message that everyone should hold as a treasure, so valuable, we are compelled to share with all who are in our circle of influence.
Christmas is a lot like life in another way…. There are so many things that always try to push it out…. The day after Christmas, they are already putting up Valentine’s displays…. (So much for the twelve days of Christmas). The retail world will go on no matter what, and it won’t be too long until Christmas is out of our minds for another ten months or so too. And by the time we make it to next Christmas Eve, the whole cycle will begin all over again.
January 6th is the official day to take down your decorations… Disney takes theirs down on January 15th, However the Queen of England keeps theirs up till Feburary 6th….
It was no different 2000 years ago, in no time at all, the angel singing had come and gone, the shepherds went back to keeping their sheep, the wise men headed back to the East, and Mary and Joseph got word that Herod was killing babies throughout the land… (There’s always a Christmas party pooper) We now know that Jesus was probably 2 years old when the wise men from the east arrived….
Matthew 2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they (the wise men) should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. v13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. v15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son”.
Our challenge goes beyond keeping Christ in Christmas…. It’s a challenge that lasts all year long, in all the surprises of life, in all the unrehearsed times we have and will live
through. (And come on folks, why do we allow the world to dictate to us where Jesus fits in our Yearanyway) I’m not talking about leaving all your decorations up…. Some folks do
that, and we wonder about them…..HMMMMMM… But get with me here….He’s not only the reason for the season but for every month of the year!
The Christ of Christmas is the Great Shepherd of the New Year… He’s the true Victor of the Super Bowl of life…. He’s the great lover of Valentine's Day… He’s the King of Kings on
Presidents' Day… He’s the King of Saints on St. Patrick's Day… He’s the humble servant of Palm Sunday…. He’s the resurrected, risen Lord of Easter… He’s the Holy Spirit sender of
Pentecost…. His banner over me is love on Flag Day…. Independence Day He is my source of freedom…. Labor Day He is my rest…. Halloween He destroys the works of the evil one…
Daylight Saving Time He is my Redeemer….. Election Day He is undefeated…. Veterans Day He is the lord of armies…. Thanksgiving He is my Praise…. And We’re back to Christmas!
Let’s not keep Him in Christmas but let Him out to be the reason for our whole year of life….
Proverbs 3:22 “So shall it be life unto your soul, and grace unto your burdens. v23 Then shall you walk in your way safely, and your foot shall not stumble. v24 When you lie down, you shall not be afraid, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet. v25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it comes. v26 For the LORD shall be your confidence, and shall keep yourfoot from being taken”. And that means in all the times of life we didn’t rehearse for!
As we carry the Spirit of Christmas into the year ahead…. It becomes a year of favor and a year when the Christ of Christmas is the Lord of the whole yearthrough!!!…..