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What are you doing here?

I Didn't Expect That!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea:

Sometimes the unexpected give the best example. The unexpected were ready while the expected weren’t. But they should’ve been!


Good morning TRC Family. Welcome. Good to see you all. A few announcement before we begin:
Life Groups. If you aren’t in a Life Group, you need to be. It’s a important part of our church. It’s wear we deepen our relationships with one another, grow in our faith, and live life together.
We just had our Men’s Life Group yesterday (it was awesome).
The Tolland County Life Group is meeting tonight at 5pm in Stafford.
And our Glastonbury Life Group is meeting this upcoming Thursday at 6pm at my house.
If you’ve never been to one, come check it out! If you have any questions, you can ask me, Janelle, or Alyssa.
Next week is Christmas! Here at The River Church, we typically have our Christmas Service on the Sunday closest to the holiday. This year it will be next Sunday, Dec. 22nd, at our regular time of 10am. It’s going to be an amazing time, filled with worship, Christmas songs, and a Christmas gospel presentation.
I mention that last part because we believe the “gospel” (good news about Jesus) is the power of God that leads people to salvation. And in the American calendar, there are two big dates when people who don’t believe in Jesus, are most willing to come to church. Easter and Christmas.
Therefore, start thinking about who God wants you to invite to next week’s Christmas service. If you follow us on Facebook, share our Christmas service posts! And know, that we will be sharing the good news of Jesus that day. So, all of your families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who need some Christmas hope, will hear about where they can find it.
So, don’t forget to invite. And pray for them!
Finally, we don’t take a tithe and offering during service, but your giving does help us fulfill God’s mission in Glastonbury. If you’d like to give, you can place that offering in the white box in the back. Or, you can give online at
Let’s pray for the offering and this morning’s sermon.
River Kids - You can be dismissed!


If you have your Bible/app, turn to . We are in the 3rd week of our “I Didn’t Expect That!” Series, where we are discovering God’s Christmas Surprises found in Matthew’s presentation of the Christmas Story (the story of Jesus’ birth).
Over the past two weeks we’ve seen Jesus’ surprise relatives - people you wouldn’t expect to be related to the King. Last week, we read the story of when Mary (Jesus’ mom) was found pregnant. It was definitely a surprise! And as we read, it left us saying - multiple times - “It’s not supposed to happen this way!” If you missed those messages, you can always find them on our Facebook page or on the front page of our website.
Today, we are going to see Jesus gets a few surprise visitors. People you wouldn’t expect to be seeking the newborn King. We’ll spend a couple minutes reading the entire passage together; then, we’ll go back through and look a little deeper. Btw, the title of the message is, “What are you doing here?”
FYI - This story actually jumps ahead a couple of years from where we left off last week. But, we normally include these surprise visitors in the Christmas story, so I decided they belonged in our series...
Matthew 2:1–12 ESV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.


This is such an awesome story. So much we could look at. But for this morning, I want to filter our study through two groups: 1) God’s people (the expected people) and 2) the wise men or Magi (the unexpected people).
In our passage, we discover that wise men (Magi) from the east (probably Babylon or Persia) come to Jerusalem, seeking the newly born King of the Jews. Apparently, they were following this supernatural star that was a sign to them that something miraculous had happened - that a special King was born.
Somebody say: They ready!
And yet, upon arriving in Jerusalem, they discover they are the only ones looking for this King. The currently King (Herod) wasn’t aware. His religious consultants weren’t either . It doesn’t appear the residents of Jerusalem were looking either.
Somebody say: They aint ready!
Isn’t that interesting? God’s people - the Jewish people - the people who were expected to be ready for the Messiah, weren’t READY. But the Magi, these unexpected visitors from the east, were READY!

Why were the Magi ready, but not the Jews?

You might be asking, “Wait… if the Magi weren’t God’s people, how were THEY ready for the birth of the King of the Jews.” That’s a great question!
It’s possible that these Magi from the east (especially if they were from Babylon or Persia) had access to the Old Testament. If you know the history of Israel, you know that a few hundred years previous to this, God punished them for their centuries of disobedience. He allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and take the Jews as prisoners back to Babylon. They spend 70 years there until the Persians defeated the Babylonians and released the Jews. However, even after this, many Jews stayed in the those eastern lands. All that to say, it’s possible these Magi (whether Babylonians or Persians) had contact with these displaced Jewish scholars. And their interaction with the Jewish Scriptures prepared them for an arrival of a special King.
They may have even studied a passage like this: In the book of Numbers, there’s a prophecy that says...
Numbers 24:17 ESV
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Being that the Magi were experts in the stars, it’s possible they combined their passion for the sky, with their knowledge of Jewish Scriptures, and determined “a star” would one day appear and lead them to this future Israelite King. Or, maybe God revealed to them the significance of the supernatural star another way...
Whatever the case, they were READY. And when Jesus was born, they made their way to Jerusalem to visit him.
But another question we should ask about this passage is, “Why weren’t the Jews - God’s special people, the keepers of the Old Testament - why weren’t they READY?” These are the ones we’d expect to be READY.
Let me suggest two reasons:
They were too self-centered to notice God’s work of salvation. Think about what we find here in our story...
The only thing King Herod cared about was staying king. He didn’t want to hear about the birth of a new King, especially one who was rightfully, the “King of the Jews.” Herod wasn’t even Jewish - meaning, he wasn’t even supposed to be king. Therefore, this new true King was a threat!
On the other hand, the Jewish people were overly concerned about the government instead of worshiping God. The only thing they cared about was, “How can we get rid of these Romans who rule over us!”
Therefore, consider this: It’s hard to look up at a star when you’re too looking at yourself!
Here’s a lesson for us: Don’t miss what God’s doing “around you” because you too focused “on you.”
Colossians 3:2 ESV
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Jesus said...
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We got to pay attention to the things that really matter. The things that make us READY for the arrival of God in our lives. Because when we’re too focused on self, we can miss the Savior! So, the Bibles instructs us to intentionally, “Look up!”
2. The second reason they weren’t ready is because their fear impacted their faith.
2. The second reason they weren’t ready is because their fear impacted their faith.
Herod was afraid of losing his throne. He didn’t care that the promised Savior of the WORLD was born. He didn’t want to lose his power. So, instead of recognizing, receiving, and rejoicing in the newborn King, he protected his pride and let his fear impact his faith.
Likewise, verse 3 says...
Matthew 2:3 ESV
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
When it says, “all Jerusalem with him,” it means the residents were nervous that Herod was distressed. Why? Because Herod was crazy! He killed his own family out of fear. Bad things happen when Herod is TRIGGERED! So, they were “troubled” when Herod was “troubled.”
Now, although the people of Jerusalem had a right to fear Herod’s crazy wrath, to what extent is it justifiable? Was it worth letting their fear impact their faith? After all, there was a rumor that the Promised King - the Savior they’d waited thousands of years for - was finally here! Yet, because of fear, none of them sought out the Promised Messiah.
Fear can wreck our faith...
Think about our own lives? Does fear compromise our faith? Maybe we’re afraid to live for Jesus because it might affect our position in life. Maybe we’re afraid to seek the Savior because we’re afraid of losing our current comfort.
We got to ask ourselves: Are these fears worth it? Are we willing to miss Jesus because of fear?
The people in Jerusalem - God’s people - were selfish and afraid. And it kept them from being READY. Which leads us to this morning’s Christmas surprise...
In the Christmas story, the people READY for the King were the UNEXPECTED visitors. And we can actually see five awesome lessons from their example. Think about these...

Lessons from the unexpected:

Lesson 1: They show us the unexpected should actually be expected. In our story, on the surface, it seems strange that Magi from the east would be searching for the “King of the Jews… so that could worship Him.” But if you truly look at God’s promise to send a Savior, it shouldn’t be a surprise!
Isaiah 49:5–6 ESV
And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
God’s promise to save Israel INCLUDED the world being saved too - all ethnicities. So in reality, when unexpected people start showing up to meet the Savior, it shouldn’t be a surprise, but an indication that God is fulfilling His promise! God desires all men to be saved, even the ones we don’t expect!
Lesson 2: The unexpected remind us how we SHOULD pursue Jesus. The wise men traveled from far away and came READY to worship. However, God’s own people weren’t even looking, let alone READY to receive the newborn King...
I got to give a disclaimer: What I’m about to say isn’t directed at anyone specific. I’m not picking on anyone. I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just sharing some nationwide trends that we happen to also see here at The River Church.
Two things:
It’s fairly common that when new people or unbelievers decide to visit a church for the first time, they usually come EARLY.
Regular members of a church are typically late. Again, that’s a nationwide thing, but it’s true here too. Howard and I have a joke (or observation) that visitors and new people typically get here about 9:50, but we don’t expect to see our regulars until 10:10.
The average attendance for a regular member (nationwide) is 2 Sundays out of the month.
So, let me ask: Why is that? Can I suggest that maybe our unexpected guest (or visitors) are like the Magi. They come looking for hope. They are looking for the star. And so they show up READY!
But we, like God’s people in Jerusalem, sometimes forget there is even a star to look for. We forget this is the house of the Living God. That God is in this place! That hope is found here!
Come to think of it… why DIDN’T the people in Jerusalem see the supernatural star the Magi were following? To help us answer that question, check out this quick video...
Awareness Test.
It’s easy to miss things we aren’t looking for. The people in Jerusalem missed the star because they weren’t looking for it! They should’ve been, but they weren’t! What do we miss because we show up to church not READY?
Which bring us to lesson 3: The unexpected don’t let their expectations interfere with their experience!
Traveled far and were ready. The people closest weren’t ready. New church people are the best evangelists - they invite most people. Normal for lose passionb ut it shouldn’t -
Matthew 2:1 ESV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,
Why didn’t they see the star?
Why did the wise men head to Jerusalem first? Because they were looking for a King. They EXPECTED the King to be in the royal city, next to the temple, and in the palace. But their expectations were WRONG!
In fact, they end up finding the newborn King in the humble town of Bethlehem, in a tiny house, with no-name parents. Well that’s UNEXPECTED! But that didn’t stop them. Look what happens next...
Matthew 2:11 ESV
And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
They didn’t let their expectations interfere with their experience. They were in the presence of God! They had to worship!
You know what’s strange. Many times, the people who are most impacted at church are the people who don’t even know Jesus. Why? Because a lot of them have finally gotten to the point where they are willing to try church because they need HOPE. And when they hear the Word of God and experience His presence, they come away saying, “I really needed that!”
They don’t have any personal expectations. They just came to see and hear about this Jesus-guy. But what about us Christians? The people who are EXPECTED to be in the house of God?
If we come, we show up late. And we bring all our personal expectations. We walk in and be like, “Oh, no River Kids this week. Oh, I hate this song! Oh, I don’t know why the pastor talks about the same thing all the time. He’s always talking about Jesus and telling other people about Him.” And we let our personal expectations ruin our experience.
Let’s learn from the UNEXPECTED!
When they come, they EXPECT to meet Jesus! We should too because that’s what it’s all about! Because I can already tell you, I ain’t nothing special to look at or listen to. So, don’t come here for ME! Come here to meet Jesus! Not me. Not our worship team. Not our children’s program. Just Jesus!
That’s what the Magi came looking for and it’s a simple, but important lesson for us.
Lesson 4: The unexpected bring gifts instead of grief. The Magi brought gifts to worship Jesus. The current king of Jerusalem (Herod), brought grief!
If we were to keep reading the story, you’d see that after the Magi left, Herod finally went looking for Jesus. But not to worship! He went looking to kill Him! Sometimes, we show up to church with the spirit of Herod. We bring death instead of life.
So, who you want to be like? Herod or the wise men? Let me help you: Don’t be like Herod. Be like the UNEXPECTED Magi and come ready to worship. Ready to meet Jesus!
Come in like:
Vin and Connie: They always ready for Jesus!
Mark and Chelsea: I love how they walk in with a big smile, carrying their Bibles. They’re ready to hear from the Lord!
Jackie Owens: Ya’ll know Jackie. She’s always ready for a Jesus party!
Alex Stankosky: Ya’ll met my little buddy Alex? That kid has the biggest smile in the world. He comes into the house of the Lord with joy.
These peeps are bring gifts, not grief. Be like them!
You may be saying, “But pastor, you don’t know my struggles!”
You might be right! And I’m not saying we don’t have hard times (or ignore them). We don’t struggle. We don’t experience real pain. But what I am saying is we have a God who is willing to meet us in this place. And He says we can leave all our grief at the door and come in and worship!
He says, “Give all your worries and cares to Me because I care for you.” When we show up on Sunday, let’s bring that grief to the cross and leave it there. And then, let’s focus on Jesus, ready to bring gifts of worship.
Final Lesson: Check this out...
Matthew 2:10 ESV
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matt 2:
I think sometimes we Christians struggle with joy because we don’t look up at the star - like the Magi. Take a practical lesson from them. Focus on Jesus and find joy. The Bible says in “His presence is found the fullness of joy!”


Goes back to “instead of church?” Church aint that exciting? I know I ain’t nothing special to look at or listen to. But I teach and preach the Word because I believe God has something to say to all of us through this method of communication. So I show up with that expectation. That God is going to show up and transform lives. Come expecting to encounter Jesus - no me, not our worship team, not our children’s program. Jesus!
That’s all the Magi came looking for!

The unexpected don’t let expectations interfere with experience.

I really needed that! //I really don’t like that song!

The unexpected bring gifts instead of grief.

Sometimes we can be like Herod and bring death instead of life. Don’t be like that. Vin and Connie (they ready for Jesus). Mark and Chelsea (marching in with their Bibles expecting God to show up). Jackie (ya’ll know Jackie. She’s always ready for a Jesus party). Alex - kid’s got the biggest smile (he’s bringing joy!)
Pastor, you don’t know my struggles. You might be right. I’m not saying we don’t have hard times. We don’t struggle. We don’t experience real pain. But what I’m saying is we got a God who says we can leave all of that at the door - cast your cares upon Him. Sometimes we struggle with joy because we aren’t looking up at the star. We aren’t focusing on Jesus - who in His presence is the fullness of joy!
As we close, I hope we can learn from these UNEXPECTED visitors.


I hope we learn not to miss the miracles God’s doing around us because we too focused on ourselves.
I hope we learn to seek the Savior with only ONE expectation: to worship Him. Let’s bring that expectation each week.
And I hope that we - as a church in New England - can recognize what’s happening when the UNEXPECTED arrive seeking Jesus. When people in our community start coming through those doors. I hope it causes us to rejoice because their arrival is a sign that God is fulfilling His promise to save.
Which leads me to this: Let’s make sure we invite the UNEXPECTED to Christmas service next week.
Because sometimes the only thing keeping the UNEXPECTED from arriving is an INVITE. Let’s not let a simple invite keep people from meeting Jesus.
My prayer is next week, we all have the joy and SURPRISE of seeing people we invite, but didn’t EXPECT, walk through the door. And we can ask in excitement, “What are you doing here?”
Because when that happens, remember what we read today: The arrival of the UNEXPECTED means God’s promises are being fulfilled! It means God wants to do something miraculous in their lives, our church, and our community!
As I call the worship team up, I’d like to close with this: Maybe you’re here today (or listening online) and you feel like you’re someone no one EXPECTS to follow Jesus. But for some reason, you came this morning, or you’re listening to this message. It might be a SURPRISE to you. It might be a SURPRISE to people who know you. But it’s not a SURPRISE to Jesus.
As you heard about early, Jesus isn’t the Savior of just a limited people group, but the whole world. And He came to earth that first Christmas so that He could eventually die on a cross 33 years later. He had a mission to sacrifice His perfect life for our sins. And after He did that, God raised him from the dead 3 days later showing the sacrifice was accepted.
And the good news (gospel) is, if you are willing to turn away from your old life (repent) and put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, that God will forgive you for your sin and give you a brand new life empowered by His Holy Spirit.
And I truly believe the reason you’re hearing this message is because Jesus loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you. Maybe that’s UNEXPECTED. Maybe that’s a SURPRISE. But it’s TRUE. God loves you and wants to spend eternity with you. What’s stopping you from accepting His love today? Call out to Him today!
Let’s pray.
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