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When Christmas Is Less Than Ideal

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Sermon Title: “When Christmas is Less Than Ideal”
Sermon Series: Unforgettable Christmas
Sermon Text:
The Christmas season can be one of great excitement and joy. It can also be very hectic with all of the working of schedules to try and get everything in. There are get-togethers that you want to be involved in. There are family gatherings that you have to work in. There is the wonderful task of getting “the perfect gift” for those special loved ones.
How many times have you heard during the Christmas season, “This is not going according to plan”? Though we may go to great measures to plan things out, they have a way many times of becoming not-so-ideal situations.
As we continue our Christmas series that we have called ‘Unforgettable Christmas’, I wanted to look today at what are we to do when Christmas comes and the situation is not as ideal as we would like.

The First Christmas

As we look back to the very first Christmas and the events that led up to that wonderful night when the Savior of the world came, it is interesting to me that we find the situations were not very ideal.
While there were many things going on around that first Christmas, two special events stand out, and I want to look at them this morning. Both of these events were the announcements that a baby was on the way. Usually the news that a child is going to be born is good and exciting news, but in both of these situations the conditions were not so ideal.

Announcement of John the Baptist

The first announcement that we are told about is that John the Baptist would be born. This is found in starting in verse 5. It is here that we are told about this Levite priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. They were both devoted to God and served God with their whole hearts. They had wanted a child, but for reasons we are not told were unable to have children. tells us that “both of them were well along in years.”
Luke goes on to tell us about how Zechariah’s turn had come up to serve in the temple. This was a special privilege that Levites had. They would offer worship to the Lord on behalf of the Jewish people in the Temple. Because there were so many Levites (upwards around 20,000) that did this ministry, it was common that one only got to do this once in their lifetime.
As Zechariah went in to serve the Lord, he was approached by Gabriel, God’s top messenger angel.
Luke 1:10–17 CSB
At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.”
Here was Gabriel with the news that I’m sure that Zechariah had always wanted to hear. He was going to be a dad. The only problem is that Zechariah and Elizabeth were well past child-bearing years. Why couldn’t this have happened sooner? Why now? We will come back to that in a moment.

Announcement of Jesus Christ

There was a second announcement that we find in . We see that Gabriel had more mail to deliver. This time he went to a young lady in Nazareth named Mary. Mary was a virtuous young lady who was betrothed (engaged) to a man named Joseph, and they were making plans for their future.
Gabriel had a special message for Mary from God.
Luke 1:30–33 CSB
Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”
How would you like to get that message? You are going to be the earthly parents of the Son of God. From all the people who were alive at that time, God had chosen this young woman and her soon-to-be husband to care for and raise the Messiah.
There were a couple of issues though that made this situation less than ideal.
First, Mary and Joseph were not officially married yet. This news would come with a whole list of issues in itself.
Second, this young couple did not much means. Joseph was a hard-worker, but this young couple were struggling in the financial department. We see this play out as they have to go to Bethlehem for a census that there was no place for this to stay. They have to make their lodging alongside many animals. We also see this play out as Jesus is born, His first baby crib was the animals’ feeding trough.

What Do You Do When Christmas Is Not So Ideal?

We see that though, both of these families received some wonderful news from God, it came at a time when the situation was not ideal.
Christmastime is supposed to be a time of joy, celebration, and laughter. I do not know of anyone who wishes that this season would be a little more inconvenient or stressful. The truth is that even though situations are not-so-ideal, God will still work miracles in the midst of the chaos.
Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t just work when everything is going as it should? Jesus reminded us that He came for those who were plagued with the spiritual sickness of sin.
Luke 5:31–32 CSB
Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
There would be no reason for God to move and work if everything was just as it should be. It is because of the very fact that we live in less-than-ideal situations that Jesus came in the first place. He came to set things straight.
This Christmas may be one of those less-than-ideal situations for you. I have good news for you: God still wants to do something wonderful in your life… even in the midst of your less-than-ideal situation. God came to both Zechariah & Elizabeth and Mary & Joseph during some of those times in their lives, and He worked something amazing.
The way that we can experience the fullness of God’s blessings during this time is in how we respond to what God is doing.
When we look back to Zechariah, he met this news with the question “how?” (READ )
Luke 1:18 CSB
“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”
Zechariah could not understand how this could happen. There was doubt present in the ability of God. Though Zechariah had spent his life serving the Lord, when it came down to it, he was not sure how God could pull this off.
Because Zechariah stopped at his doubt, he missed a great deal of God’s blessing. We see in that God took Zechariah’s ability to speak away from him until John the Baptist was born. He was not able to communicate with others clearly for close to 9 months.
When we look to Mary, we see a different response. She also had the question of “how?” But she didn’t stop at the doubt that sprang up. She pressed on further to a different answer found in = “May it be…”
Luke 1:38 CSB
“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Doubt will rise up in instances. The key to conquering doubt is to not stop there but to press on further. As Gabriel told Mary what God was doing in her life, she embraced God’s work and allowed it to burn away the doubt.
You may be going through a less-than-ideal situation this Christmas. It is important for you to remember that though things might not be the way you would want them, they are not hindering God from doing something great.
We all have a decision to make when these times arise in our lives. We can camp out in the land of doubt and be stuck with the question of “how?” In doing this, we will miss out on many of the blessings that God intends. Or we can do like Mary and push through and accept what God is doing and experience it all.
Your tendency might be to be like Zechariah and get caught in the doubt, but I have a word for you: even Zechariah came around. In , we see that as John was born, they said to name him “John”. As soon as Zechariah fully submitted and obeyed, his tongue was loosed, and he was able to speak. The first thing Zechariah did with his voice was praise the Lord.
God is going to do some great things this Christmas. The timing and situations may not be ideal, but that will not stop Him. In fact, it will make it all the more glorious. Will we be apart of them, or will we miss out?
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