Monday, December 24, 2007

Are You Just Along for the Ride?

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Eve
Wednesday, December 24, 2007
Luke 2:1-20

Well, you’re here tonight. There’s a lot of people who are celebrating or spending Christmas Eve in some other way. You have at least some sense of what it’s all about. Or you might be wondering why you are here. You might be wondering with a lot of people what Christmas really is all about. Or perhaps you’re here knowing full well what Christmas is all about but still wondering what God is up to; at least, what He’s up to in your life. You know the Christmas story, you know who He is, you believe in Jesus as your Savior, but maybe you feel like you’re just along for the ride.

God is all-powerful—why then is there so much difficulty in your life? God loves you, why then do you struggle with so many problems? Maybe you’re wondering if God really is guiding you and there for you or if you’re just along for the ride.

Well take comfort. I think there was a lot of wondering that night Christ was born. First of all, Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary wondered at everything the shepherds had told them about their newborn son. The shepherds themselves were wondering what in the world was going on when heavenly visitors descended upon them. No, they not only wondered, they were scared half out of their wits! Mary and Joseph must have wondered about the timing of the census declared by Caesar when Mary had just become pregnant. Pregnancy can be difficult enough, let alone when Mary had to make a trek all the way to Bethlehem. They were probably really wondering what was going on when there was no place for them to stay at their destination. God sure had funny ways of bringing about His eternal plans.

It must have seemed for them that they were just along for the ride. They believed in God. They trusted in Him that this miraculous conception was by the hand of God and therefore He would take care of them through the whole ordeal. Well, they made it. Probably not what they had hoped for. But there they were, in a stable. God was born there. Of course, He didn’t look very much like God to Joseph and Mary. Maybe they wondered about that too. God, are You sure you know what You’re doing? Are you sure this is the way it’s supposed to be? You’re going to bring about salvation for the world in this way?

And then some shepherds showed up. What were they doing here? How’d they even know to come here? And then things got really strange! Here they’re telling them all kinds of amazing things about their little baby that had just been born. What was that all about? What was going on? They might have felt even more so that they were just along for the ride and wondering if God would ever provide any direction or at least make some sense of it all.

Of course, at the center of it all was the baby Jesus. And that’s probably where most of our wondering is directed. Jesus, a baby. Jesus, God. God knows everything, and yet, there He was, a baby lying in a manger. Happily oblivious to all that strange stuff going on around Him, because He was, after all, a human being, just like the rest of us. And we human beings when we’re babies have no concrete understanding of what is going on around us. And so our wondering continues—how could God be God and also be in a state where He didn’t know what was going on?

Think about a certain event when He was an adult in full use of His rational capacity. In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed three times, didn’t He? Father, if there is another way, make it so. If there is any way other than suffering for the sins of the world to bring about salvation, bring it about. Do you think there was some wondering going on there with Jesus? And yet, this wondering was never divorced from the will of His Heavenly Father. His prayer three times concluded with “not My will but Yours be done.” How Jesus remains God even though in a state where He is a man and limited to the things humans are limited to is that He chose to humble Himself to become a man.

Are we wondering why this is so? As a man He placed Himself under the Law. Not just the law that governments establish. God’s Law. The Ten Commandments, which He demands we keep fully. Think about Caesar’s decree. Here he told everyone to go to their hometown to be registered and so God has to go. Not because He had no choice. Because He did choose to submit to this pagan ruler’s decree. Joseph and Mary had no choice, but Jesus did. He chose to become a man and submit not only to the law of the land but to God’s eternal Law.

Though tempted as we are, He kept God’s Law perfectly. He chose also to suffer the consequences of not keeping God’s Law perfectly. He chose this because of His vast love for us. There’s actually no wondering at all on His part, only the wonder on our part of seeing His gift to us in coming as our Savior. Jesus was most certainly not just along for the ride.

But if we nevertheless wonder, we can know that we’re in good company. Joseph and Mary wondered at what the shepherds told them about Jesus. And in the quiet moments she had, Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. It’s not a bad thing to wonder at the work of God in bringing about our salvation through a little baby in Bethlehem. Or in a suffering, bleeding servant on the hill of Calvary. While we will always wonder at how God could love us in such a way we may also see that the wonderment gives way to this: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

They had wondered along with the rest of them. But they also came to see that they weren’t just along for the ride. And even if they were, that’s a pretty good one to be on. It all goes back to what has been told us. For the shepherds, the angels had pointed the way to Jesus, and they found it just as the angels had said. If we ever feel like we’re just along for the ride, we may see the same thing in the Scriptures. It is all just as God has said it is in His Holy Word.

We will have times in our lives where we wonder where God is going with everything we’re dealing with in life. Does He really know what He’s doing? Is this really the way it’s supposed to come about? Or are we just along for the ride? Well, for Joseph, and Mary, and a few shepherds outside of Bethlehem it was a ride that ultimately took them to heaven. Because God does have a plan. Our wondering is met with the message of God that Jesus has been born. He has suffered and died. And He has risen that we may have life in heaven with Him forever. If this is being along for the ride, then thank God He has brought us along! Amen.


No comments: