The Wonder of His Birth
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8 And there were shepherds in the same region, living out of doors and keeping watch, guarding over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. 10 And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy which will be for all the people: 11 that today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 And this will be the sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” 15 And it happened that when the angels had departed from them into heaven, the shepherds began to say to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has revealed to us!” 16 And they went hurrying and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the statement that had been told to them about this child. 18 And all who heard it were astonished concerning what had been said to them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
Many of us have nativity scenes don’t we? Lots of us have probably received or sent Christmas cards with the nativity scene on it right? I’m guessing that that first scene, when Jesus was born, was actually a bit more messy than our images. Jesus did come to get messy. And the birth that took place in that messy barn or stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem was anything but a clean and sanitary sight.
If you’ve been in a delivery room you know that delivering a child is not always clean and neat…but I’m sure they did what they could right away to clean up. And even with this birth, there were visitors came. Shepherds.
If one word was used to describe shepherds in the first century, it would undoubtedly be “messy.” In fact there were certain things and places they couldn’t go and couldn’t do simply because they were shepherds. Sometimes looked down on. Regardless, the angels invited them, with hints of where to find Him. So they could worship the arrival of the long awaited savior of the world.
If the messy shepherds were invited in to see the newborn King Jesus, a precedent was set for all who may have some mess in their lives. Such a precedent means we have a shot ...Our imperfect and sometimes messy lives do not disqualify us as people who can come and meet Jesus.
Even He invites you.
1. Jesus Gets Your Mess
The angel told the shepherds, “This will be a sign to you; you will find the babe wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” While this was a clue to help the shepherd know where to find the Messiah baby, I think it was also a sign for us. The Savior we are looking for gets us. He knows what it is like to be fragile, weak, and lowly. He knows what it is like to be poor, helpless, and hungry.
That is why the writer of Hebrews said:
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Did you catch that? “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness...”
Way too often, we think we are too messy to approach Jesus.
Let’s repeat that…sometimes we think we’re too messy to approach Jesus. “If walk into a church building…or You don’t want me there...”
God wants us to know that is not true.
That is so important to God that while he could have had Jesus be born in a palace, he chose a manger. God could have given Jesus wealth beyond imagination but chose to make him a man who had no home to rest his head.
He could have placed Jesus in a perfect family, but the truth is, his family didn’t even believe in him when he started his ministry.
5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.)
21 When his family heard this, they set out to restrain him, because they said, “He’s out of his mind.”
Whatever your mess is, I promise you, Jesus gets it.
He came to get messy with you to this world …your messy world. The reason? To clean up messes…our messes.
2. Jesus Got Messy
Jesus walked through a messy life and it was always heading to a difficult ending…the cross. We cannot begin to imagine just how messy the cross was.
The crosses we hang on our walls and wear around our necks are much different than reality. We know why we have them…but in terms of reality…much different.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Stated another way, while we were still in our mess, Christ died for us.
You see, the Bible teaches that we are in a mess until we find the greatest Christmas gift ever…Jesus.
We can try to clean ourselves up, but in the end, we only find ourselves worse off.
The only thing that could clean up our mess was God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ.
Eugene Peterson says it like this: “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us—he enters into our trouble and saves us.” The wonder of His birth.
3. Jesus Meets Us In Our Mess
Now…becoming a bit more personal.
Mike Yaconelli, in his book Messy Spirituality, talks at length about Jesus’ desire to get close to messy people just like you and me. Jesus actually came to meet us in the middle of our specific mess. I’m not sure of your messes…I know mine. So as I read this think about your personal context.
“Jesus wants people just like you and me to get close to Him. Jesus loves people just like you who live in a city, and have a wife or a husband, three kids, two cats, and a washing machine that has stopped working. Jesus loves people who are single, work sixty to seventy hours a week, have parents who wonder why we’re not married, and have friends who make much more money than we do. Jesus loves people who are divorced, still trying to heal from the scars of rejection, trying to cope with the single-parenting of children who don’t understand why this happened to them. Jesus wants all of us who do not necessarily live life in a monastery, who don’t have it all together, and probably never will to feel welcome in His presence. He welcomes you in the midst of your messy life.”
It is part of the wonder of Christmas to realize Jesus is not afraid of our messy spirituality.
What is true about many of our lives is that messy spirituality is an accurate description of the Christianity most of us live and few of us admit. Many times, we try to read the Bible and match it to our lives…rather than looking at our lives and then rearranging things to match God’s Word.
However, it is such a relief when we realize the truth that Jesus is not repelled by our lives no matter what kind of mess they may be in or how inadequate we may feel this Christmas.
No amount of mess can discourage Jesus from loving us fully in our humanity. He came to get messy because He knew that is where we were in our lives:
...right in the middle of a mess of sin.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
What a picture he paints for us. This sheep…that is us…has wandered off and is making a mess or his life. The shepherd…that is Jesus…doesn’t sit back and wait for the sheep to figure it out and clean up the mess he has made of his life. The shepherd leaves everything and everyone else to find this little lamb. To do that, the shepherd had to meet the sheep in the middle of his or her mess.
If we choose to put our messy lives into His Holy hands, we can have confidence based on all that is written about Jesus in the Bible, that He specializes in dealing with our stuff in such a way that He knows how to make something new, beautiful, and clean.
Jesus is all about giving people a fresh start in life when they trust Him.
Perhaps this Christmas, you just need a fresh start with Jesus. Maybe you need to go back to where it began in the Christmas story and remember that innocence in the form of a baby stepped into a mess to save us.
Jesus Is Willing To Clean Up Your Mess
Think about it this way, Jesus left Heaven for this. He was willing to do all of this for us. Meaning…He wanted to come here, to enter into life as you know it…to save you.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of a messy man who needed to be cleaned. His mess is what the bible called leprosy.
40 Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
If you’re willing.... This man had come to a point of realization. He could not help himself. But he knew Jesus could. He just asked if Jesus was willing.
This messy man shows us exactly what to do. On his knees, he reached out to Jesus simply asking to be cleaned.
The truth is, Jesus is just as moved and compassionate towards us; He is just as willing to cleanse us today as he was for that man.
If you need to experience the wonder of Christmas, today is the perfect time to ask Jesus to meet you in your mess and help give you a clean heart and a fresh start.