“But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What are you afraid of? That was actually a topic of conversation in my vehicle the other day. The list included a pretty standard set of things: spiders, snakes, mice, insects, and the like. Any of those on your list? Perhaps, but I’ll bet you have some other things on there as well; things that are bigger, harder for you to precisely define, and possess more control over your life than any of the cliched list. The good news is, you don’t have to live with this. Joseph didn’t either.
“Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
People don’t expect much from small towns. The pace of life there is slow. There aren’t many job opportunities. Retail offerings are limited. Medical capabilities are limited. Culture isn’t being created. Frankly, most of them are dying. Nothing of real significance happens there. Except this one time, the King of Heaven entered earth in a small town and the world has never been the same.
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Sometimes, the same scene, viewed through two different lenses, can look very different. You’ve perhaps heard or even witnessed something like this before. You see a man push an old woman down in the middle of the street. What should we think? If that’s all we know, then he’s a scoundrel. If, however, he is doing it to get her out of the way of an oncoming car, he’s a hero. What we see here in Isaiah is subject to the same sort of interpretive conundrum.
This week we kick off a new teaching series called, The Characters of Christmas, designed to get us ready to experience the incredible Christmas story as fully as we possibly can. The Christmas story is a real story filled with real people. Just like they all had a place in the story, so do we. Let’s look at what place they had to see what our own might be.
A Life of Faith
I wish I could have been there at the birth. It would have been incredible. Now, I’ll tell you straight up that nothing could even come close to comparing with the births of my own sons, but this one would have come pretty far down that road. The couple had been trying to have kids for so long they’d stopped counting. Then, it finally happened. They finally got there. They finally got to experience the joy and wonder of delivering a healthy, precious baby into this world. They were able to hold in their arms this tiny miracle from God. The shouts of joy in the room would have nearly drowned out the healthily screaming baby. The mother was crying with wonder and relief as she looked into the face of her infant son. It had not been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination, but she had made it. And her husband was standing there with her, silently watching the events unfold just exactly as he had hoped they would.
This past Sunday we began a brand-new teaching series at First Baptist, Oakboro, called God Moved into the Neighborhood. Over the course of the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, we are going to unpack the marvelous truth that when our world was broken nearly beyond repair, God moved into the neighborhood in the person of Jesus Christ in order to transform it from the inside out. With the help of some unexpected passages of Scripture for this time of year, we will unpack just how amazing this truth is, how the process of transformation unfolds, and how we should respond to it. Don’t miss a single part of this powerful story.
A Crazy Idea
Have you ever had the opportunity to drive through an old neighborhood and thought, “Why haven’t they just bulldozed this whole place? This is a mess! This is an eyesore! The people still living here should get a medal.” You may have heard about the challenges facing the city of Detroit over the past few years. World Magazine did a feature story on one neighborhood in the city a couple of years ago as a way of giving some perspective on how things really are. Because of the city’s well-publicized problems, the neighborhood had been pretty much forgotten. One in three homes had been abandoned. Street lights didn’t have power going to them anymore. There was no police coverage for the neighborhood due to budget restrictions. There are no good grocery stores nearby. Jobs are scarce. Folks in the neighborhood have started doing basically some urban farming in order to provide food for themselves and their neighbors. They raise a variety of produce as well as chickens and goats. And when asked whether or not all this was legal within city limits they essentially said, “We’ll worry about forgiveness if we ever get caught…in the meantime, we’ve got to survive.” Closer to home, though, some of you have perhaps driven through some of the more run-down neighborhoods of Charlotte or even Albemarle; neighborhoods where you didn’t really feel safe even driving down the street. How do we respond to a place like this? Read the rest…