Introduction We mostly think about about the Christmas story starting with the angel’s announcement to Mary and ending with the Wise Men. But when we take the long view, we find out that the Christmas story started 2,000 years before any of that! We see in a conversation that God had with Abraham that the plan all along was to bless the entire world through Abraham’s descendants.
Tension Unfortunately, the road to that blessing would take Israel through more than a few left turns, and even some U-Turns, before arriving in Bethlehem. In fact, Israel heard “promise” and thought “perfect picture.” We do the same thing today: we hear God’s promises and assume everything will be easy and perfect.
Truth Instead of perfect pictures, God is up to something even bigger: writing redemptive stories. And for something to be redeemed, it means it has to reach the bottom and come back up again. In Galatians, Paul tells us that Jesus came when things were exactly right. “Exactly right” for Israel meant that they were under their 4th occupation and not even close to being a nation that anyone would be jealous of, let alone a nation that could bless the world. But even though God had been silent, God was not still and Jesus’ birth would change the entire world. Why? Because it was, in fact, meant for the entire world as that conversation with Abraham tells us.
Application Our own lives are going to hit low points, but when we consider those 2,000 years between Abraham and Jesus, we can have confidence that God can redeem our story. Why can we be confident? Because Israel’s history is proof that God can take bigger messes than ours and make them into something beautiful. So when God seems silent and still, we can choose to have faith that God is up to something bigger that will be for our good and that story can be for the good of the whole world.
Tension My yard has a physical fence, an invisible fence, and chicken wire around the top of the fence. Why? Because my dog Maggie is an incredible escape artist. As much as we would like to let her explore our neighborhood, she just doesn’t look both ways for traffic. It’s not safe and, because we love her, we have to put down boundaries for her own good. It would be best if we didn’t have to rely on boundaries to keep her inside; I’d much rather just sit her down and explain that we love her and want the best for her, but she’s a dog and I’m not, so fences. All the fences.
Truth God also loves us and wants the best for us and the Law that we read about in the Old Testament was like a fence meant to keep God’s people within the bounds of what was best for them: right relationships with God, others, and themselves. And it kinda did that, but it also proved that an act of love, one that changed our hearts and not just our minds and made God’s love real, would ultimately be more effective. That’s what we see in Galatians 4:4-5: God wants more from us than good behavior (“the Law”), God wants a relationship. That’s why God came as a person, so that it could be personal. God entered our world in a real way to demonstrate real love for real people like you and me.
Application Want an easy way to live this out that can also make your Christmas more meaningful? Try entering someone else’s world to love that person in a real way. Do a sibling’s chores. Go see a movie you aren’t excited about with a friend who is really excited to see it. Volunteer to help a parent with Christmas decorations or preparations. Serve the homeless where they are. When we do that, we get to experience what Jesus did at Christmas: the joy of sacrificial love.