Embracing Jesus

December 17, 2017

No doubt this Christmas you will suffer by standing in a long line at a store. You have 1 item but it seems everyone in front of you has 10 items to purchase. Suddenly a person in the next cash register announces that he or she will take the next customer and you excitedly step over and immediately go to the head of the line. That is a message of good news. But you have to move quickly or you will miss out.

Today we are considering the story of the shepherds who cared for sheep in the fields surrounding Bethlehem. It was just another boring night of watching sheep when suddenly it was if the next cash register opened up. They were absolutely amazed at what opened up for them. And I can tell you it wasn’t a cash register. Rather, an angel appeared with an amazing announcement. The announcement to the shepherds is an opportunity to embrace Jesus.


Over the years as I have preached on the shepherds, I have read various things. I have read that shepherds were poor and considered to be at the bottom of society. They were looked down upon, uneducated and untrustworthy people. On the other hand, there are those who point out that in the Old Testament shepherds are not looked down upon in Israel. In fact, King David is called a shepherd. Israel’s priests are likened to shepherds. God is the Good Shepherd. So we want to be careful in how we paint these shepherds. It does seem that one can safely say that shepherds were generally poor and not the best educated. They were lowly and humble, like many common people in any society. Some suggest that they cared for the sheep that were destined to be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem.

And I imagine that they were lost people, like most people are in any society. You may be wondering what I mean by saying they were lost. Well, obviously they were not lost in terms of geography. They lived in the area of Bethlehem and knew exactly where they were. They were not lost in terms of society. They probably knew exactly where they fit in on the totem pole of social standing. No, I am speaking about the condition of their heart in relationship to God. When it came to the matter of their relationship to God they were lost. They were separated from God and did not know God. Nor did they live their lives as if God were their God. They may have been religious, but they didn’t know God.

We might just say they were sinners. But saying they were sinners doesn’t really explain the depth of the problem. Sinners are people who think, do, and say sinful things. But it is not just the sinful things we think, say and do that is the problem. The core problem is that they had turned away from God in their hearts. Their hearts were not inclined towards God and his ways. A heart that is turned away from God has no room for God because many other things, namely one’s own thoughts and desires, clutter the space in their heart. In Eph.4:18, Paul writes about unbelievers. “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Think about this. These shepherds may have been poor, but at least they were employed and contributing something to the functioning of society. And while they probably were uneducated, it’s possible that they were just a good bunch of guys, like any other group of guys you might find at a local bar on a Friday night. What I’m trying to say is that these shepherds were probably no better or worse than most people.

What strikes me about our society is that for the most part everyone looks generally good. And yet every day we see supposedly good people being charged with serious crimes. There’s a sense in which you can say that every person is a mixture of good and bad behavior. However, according to Jer.17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” In our society, as long as a person thinks they are generally good, they will think they are good enough for any god they might have to answer to. If you think you are generally good enough, you don’t have to worry about God.

This is the problem with our hearts. We don’t realize the depth of our pride and self-centeredness. And because of this we underestimate the intensity of God’s love and righteousness. We don’t understand that we are way out of our league when it comes to God. It’s not so much the sin that you committed yesterday that separates you from God. Rather it is your hard heart that allowed you and drove you to commit the sin without regard for God. There are religious people, people who have prayed salvation prayers who have little regard for God. They prayed a prayer when they were young, but today their hearts are far from God.

These are people who are walking in darkness. They are walking in the darkness of their own self-deception. Thinking themselves to be wise they have become fools. They have overestimated their own goodness and underestimated the righteousness and love of God revealed in Christ.

My question for you is, are you walking in this kind of darkness. You may know about God and Jesus and Christmas, but do know God through Jesus? If not, you are walking in darkness just like these shepherds.


In Is.9:2 it says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” These shepherds were in the dark of night. Suddenly an angel appeared and the glory of the Lord radiated around them. For those of you familiar with the Old Testament, think Shekinah glory, the glory of God. The Hebrew word, Shekinah means the dwelling or resting of the presence of God. God was present and the angel of the Lord was delivering an amazing message of good news. It was gospel news.

Of course, like most people, the shepherds were afraid, “sore afraid” as the KJV puts it. They were not expecting anything like this. In fact they were not expecting anything at all.

The angel had a message of good news which would bring great joy. What is this message? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Notice that this is a very personal message. “Unto you.” This is for you. There is no doubt in my mind that Luke wants us to personalize this message. This is for you and me. Notice also that this message involves humanity. A person is being born into the world. They were afraid of the angel and if God himself had appeared, perhaps they would be dead because no one can look upon God who dwells in unapproachable light, and live. But a baby? Who could ever be afraid of a baby? “Unto you a baby is born this day.” “A baby is born for me?”

But here is the clincher. The baby is born in Bethlehem, the same city that David, Israel’s greatest king, came from. What is more, this baby is the Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. This is the only place in the New Testament where these three terms are brought together in reference to Jesus. “Savior” literally means deliverer. In the Old Testament it is mostly used of God. It refers to someone who delivers or rescues others from peril like one’s enemies or disease. This one to be born is a deliverer. But more than that, he is the Christ or Messiah, God’s anointed king, born in the line of David. There were some Jewish people at that time who were anticipating the coming of the Messiah, but most were not. We don’t know if these shepherds were living in anticipation of Messiah’s coming any more than any of us might be living in anticipation of Christ’s coming. It’s not something often on our radar.

And then the angel refers to Jesus as Lord, Christ the Lord. When Mary visited Elizabeth, as she entered into the house and greeted Elizabeth, in Lk.1:43, Elizabeth exclaims, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” In Lk.1-2 the word Lord refers to God. And here the angel calls Jesus, “Christ the Lord.” Luke doesn’t explain the meaning of this title in relationship to Jesus. Rather we learn the full meaning of this title as we read through the book of Luke. By the end of the book we come to realize that Christ the Lord is none other than God come to earth in human flesh.

Perhaps the fact that the angel said the Savior was born in the city of David may have jogged their memories of a prophecy in Micah 5:2, which makes it clear that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. At any rate the angel told them they that could go and find this baby, this Savior wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.

When the angel had delivered his message, suddenly many angels appeared praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

As long as God remains invisible and unseen, he is no problem for the modern mind. But as soon as God enters into history, taking on the form of human flesh, God becomes a problem. What do we do with Jesus and the historical records about him? Many just dismiss those records, but they have been shown to be credible and reliable. If the angel had delivered a message about a Savior apart from any human birth, the shepherds may have been amazed, but what would it all mean? To receive a message about the birth of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, allows others to see and experience for themselves.

The shepherds went to see, “this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” In Jer.29:13, God says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” As far as I can tell, that is what the Shepherds did. They heard this amazing message and they believed what they heard and went to see for themselves. And whaddaya know? They found the Savior, lying in the manger.

Babies have an amazing effect on people. As soon as a baby is brought into a room of people everyone’s face lights up. “How sweet! How beautiful! How amazing!” People act in odd ways around babies. They often surrender their dignity to the presence of a baby, making faces and noises that they would never make anywhere else. But we all understand. The shepherds found a baby who was so compelling because this baby was and is the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

No matter how intelligent or sophisticated in your thinking, it does not make good sense to just dismiss this baby who was born in Bethlehem so long ago. Brilliant minds throughout all of history, including our own time have gone to Bethlehem, so to speak, and have found the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. God never expects a person to abandon their mind in order to embrace Christ. God is the source of all truth. But we will have to surrender our pride and dignity if we are to find the Savior. We must all come to Jesus like the shepherds.


Clearly something happened to these shepherds. They saw Jesus in the manger and their lives were changed. They were still shepherds, having to watch their flocks by night. But now they were glorifying and praising God like they never had before.

The reason is because what they had heard and seen was in keeping with the angel’s message. What is more, they were telling other people about the message, the good news, they had received. It was all because of Jesus. They were walking in the life of Jesus. To walk in the life of Jesus is to put one’s confidence or faith in Jesus which leads to peace with God and man.

Maybe you ask yourself, “Why do I need to be at peace with God? I have nothing against God.” Actually we all have something against God. We are against God? In our heart we would prefer to not have to deal with God because we prefer to be our own god. And so many people just ignore God.

This is why God came in the form of a man. Jesus was born to enter into life in this world. From the time of his birth he began to bear the antagonism and rejection of this world. He did this until finally the world put him to death on the cross. But what the world did to Jesus, God used to bring salvation to the world. In dying on the cross, God in Jesus willingly bore the guilt and penalty of our sin and rejection of God. It is only through trusting in Jesus that forgiveness of our sin and peace with God, reconciliation with God and mankind is possible.

You may have questions about God and Jesus and the story of salvation. But I would urge you to not let your questions hold you back from coming to Jesus. In fact it would be a good thing for you to consider why you have these questions? Sometimes our questions are little more than excuses that we use to justify our unwillingness to consider the good news about Jesus Christ. Our questions are really an expression of pride, expressing misplaced self-confidence.

But there one more question I would like to ask. For those of us who confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, is the gospel the source of great joy for us? I would imagine that when all those angels appeared, praising God, it was a pretty high moment of great joy for the shepherds. But high moments of joy tend to give way to routine hours of mundane boredom. What happens to the joy that we find in knowing God and Jesus? I would point you to v.19. Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. When you first came to Christ you may have been filled with joy. What a wonderful moment. But as we settle in to follow Christ wholeheartedly, we begin to treasure and ponder the wonderful grace of God bestowed upon us in Jesus. And when the joy seems to fade because of the struggles of life in this world, we must turn and ponder anew what the Almighty has done and can do. Are you walking in the life of Jesus?

 Imagine yourself going to the stable with the shepherds to see the baby Jesus. Imagine if Mary asked you if you would want to hold Jesus. Maybe you would feel that you are not worthy to hold Jesus. Maybe your hands are dirty. But this is just the point of his coming. He was already lying in the manger. He came into this dirty world so that he could come into our dirty hearts and make them clean. The baby Jesus would have been happy for you to hold him then and he desires that you embrace him now as your Savior who is Christ the Lord. Have you embraced Jesus? Amen

Living the Dream!

December 10, 2017

Jim Nabors, aka. Gomer Pyle, died two weeks ago in Hawaii. As Gomer Pyle, Nabors seemed so homely. And yet his singing voice was anything but homely. The video clip that I’ve seen going around shows Jim Nabors singing, The Impossible Dream.  In the lyrics of The Impossible Dream we hear the words, “This is my quest, To follow that star, No matter how hopeless, No matter how far, To fight for the right, Without question or pause, To be willing to march into Hell, For a heavenly cause.”

Wow! Talk about an impossible dream! What dreams do you have for your life? And what does Jesus Christ have to do with your dreams? That’s what we want to talk about this morning as we consider the story of Joseph. The call of Jesus Christ must shape your deepest dreams in life.


Joseph was engaged to Mary. In those days marriages were arranged by the father of the groom and bride. Mary would have been in her early teens, while Joseph would have been 10 or more years older. Unlike engagements today, Mary would have already been considered to be Joseph’s wife. If she was unfaithful the only recourse was divorce. Like today, engagement brought the promise of a marriage. Weddings were happy occasions with festivities often lasting for a week or more. Being engaged has always been a meaningful step in life.

So I imagine that Joseph was looking forward to being married to Mary. His wedding would have been the fulfillment of a dream for his life. Marriage was the next step in a life well-lived. In all that we read concerning Joseph in the book of Matthew, one gets the idea that he was a solid guy. He was responsible and showed a very caring spirit. He was a just or righteous man.

But then he heard some disheartening news. Mary was discovered to be pregnant. You might remember that for about the first 3 months of her pregnancy, Mary had been staying with her cousin Elizabeth. By her 4th month it became obvious that she was pregnant and now Joseph had some decisions to make.

Put yourself in Joseph’s place. Here you are trying to prepare for your wedding and marriage. You are working and doing what you can to provide the best situation for your new wife. You are looking forward to marriage and having children. You are trying to do everything right. And now your wife-to-be has done something immoral. Your dreams are dying. Every indication is that Joseph cared about Mary. We know this because he had no desire to put Mary to public shame. So why didn’t he just go ahead and marry Mary? Well, had Joseph married Mary he would be admitting that he also had been involved in sexual immorality. But Joseph had done nothing worthy of shame. He was innocent. He loved Mary, but he valued his reputation in the community and so he had to die to this dream for his life.

These kinds of situations happen all the time. All of us have had dreams for our lives that we have had to let die for any number of reasons. When we are children we have many dreams. I used to dream of being a professional football player. That was a pipe dream because there was never a chance that I would be a pro football player. But as I grew older I did have a dream of being a professional musician. That dream was grounded in some reality. That was a possibility. But I also had to die to that dream and I will tell you why in a moment.

All of us have dreams for our lives. We have career dreams, dreams for achievement and recognition, dreams for marriage and family. Parents have dreams for their children. Employers have dreams for their business. We all have dreams.

From these verses, I want to suggest that Joseph’s experience in having to die to his dream, is a picture of what must happen to followers of Christ regarding all of our dreams. We must die to our dreams for life. There is nothing wrong with having dreams. God created us to aspire to wonderful things. The problem is that our dreams are often Godless. I don’t mean they are morally wrong. I just mean they often don’t include God.

Let me give you an example. I’ve got some natural ability in music. Becoming a professional musician made a lot of sense to me. I gravitate to music. I love music. “I think I should a musician.” There is nothing wrong with being a musician. But as a follower of Christ should I not submit that dream to the Lord Jesus? If Jesus is my King, if my allegiance for all of life is to Jesus, if my life belongs to Jesus, is it for me to just up and decide to pursue a dream without consulting him, without surrendering that dream to him no matter how much sense it makes to me?

In his teachings, Jesus spoke about the importance of counting the cost before signing on to be his disciple. In Lk.14:26-27, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This is pretty serious stuff? So what I am suggesting is that what happened to Joseph must actually be an intentional attitude on our part. We have our dreams, but we hold them loosely before the Lord. We don’t belong to ourselves. We are not our own. What are your current dreams for your life? Are you willing to die to those dreams in light of Jesus Christ?


Joseph was getting ready to divorce Mary quietly. I imagine these considerations consumed his mind. He just couldn’t believe what had happened. But then he had a dream. It’s not uncommon to dream about the things that consume our minds. Perhaps it was the only opportunity when Joseph’s anxious mind was accessible to God. Clearly this dream was a little different.

An angel of the Lord appeared in the dream. The angel told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Surely Mary must have explained all that happened to her, but here was confirmation for Joseph. The angel confirmed that this pregnancy was the Lord’s doing. Not only that, the angel instructed Joseph to name the baby, “Jesus.” He told him that Jesus would save his people, Israel from their sins.” That is pretty specific information.

Joseph had a good dream for his life. But when Mary turned up pregnant his dream died and he decided to end the relationship. But then God comes to Joseph through a dream and says, “No, don’t end that relationship. You’ve got a good dream but your dream is being adjusted to accomplish my purposes.” When we die to our dreams and surrender them to the Lord, the Lord has the opportunity to direct our lives into his purposes.

It is important to see that God’s purposes for us will always involve Jesus Christ our King. In other words whatever we do in life we do it with Jesus at the center of our lives. God was not negating Joseph’s dream. He was adjusting it. Joseph was surrendered to God and so he was willing and ready to listen.

As believers, we want to do what God wants us to do. Could I have become a professional musician? Well, I think so. Would my becoming a professional musician have been okay with God? I don’t see why not, except for one thing. God made it clear to me that being a professional musician was not in keeping with his purposes for me. As we seek God he may not change our dream, but he will always desire that the way we go about fulfilling our dream and the way we carry out our dream be shaped by Jesus. If pursuing your dream involves compromising your allegiance to the Lord, you will be pursuing your dream apart from the Lord. If Joseph had divorced Mary, I think he would have been pursuing his dream apart from the Lord. The Lord gave him clear direction to marry Mary.

So what am I saying? I am saying that when it comes to pursuing our dreams, we need to take time to be quiet and seek the Lord regarding our dreams. It is appropriate for believers to say, “Lord, my dream is such and such. How do you feel about that? Is there something else you would have me do? I want to honor you with my life and my dreams. Would you direct me into your dreams for my life?” In other words we are giving God the space to speak into our lives. We are putting ourselves at God’s disposal. If God does not clearly indicate that he intends something else for your life, then you should feel free to pursue the dream that is in your heart. Just don’t pursue it apart from Him.

Something else, you notice that God’s dream for Joseph came in the midst of turmoil. That is not uncommon. Sometimes it is only in the midst of difficulty and turmoil that our ears are open and our heart ready to hear what God has to say. Sometimes it is only in the seeming death of our dream that God’s dream can be made clear to us. Are you ready to discern God’s dream for your life?

If you don’t know Jesus Christ in a personal way, you will not be able to discern God’s dream because you are not in a relationship with God. You have not received God’s transforming life through faith in Jesus. But if you do know Christ, then my hope is that it is your desire to honor him by following his dreams for your life.


As Christians we would say that God’s dream for our lives is always better than our dream for our lives. God’s dream for our lives will surely promote our well-being and flourishing in life. But when we consider Joseph, we might think twice. Joseph immediately began living the dream, God’s dream, but clearly there was a cost.

The very thing that he was trying to avoid he now had to embrace. His righteous reputation would be called into question by just about everyone who knew him. They would not understand or approve of his decision to marry Mary. They certainly would not have done it themselves. I guess what I’m trying say is that living God’s dream for our lives in this world is bound to attract the disapproval of the world sooner or later. Why? Because Jesus Christ does not have a high approval rating in this world.

Along with this, notice that in living the dream, Joseph did it quietly. We don’t read about any wedding celebration. It just says that “when he woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife.” In fact, living the dream that God has for our lives, centered around Jesus, will not involve fanfare. Rather, living God’s dream will always involve humble, selfless obedience. That is the way of Jesus in this world.

There is something else. Do you see in v.25 that while Joseph took Mary as his wife, it says that he “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” I am reading a book by Todd Wilson, called, “Mere Sexuality.” It is not a long book, but a good book. The 2nd chapter is called, “The Sexuality of Jesus.” Todd writes, “No one was more fully human or sexually contented than Jesus, yet Jesus never engaged in a single sexual act…And he never indulged a sexual fantasy or lust of the kind he roundly condemns, even though Scripture says that Jesus is ‘one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.’ And yet, as one biblical scholar has pointed out, ‘The Gospels portray a compelling and attractive person, who engages seriously with people and is good company at a party. Yet all the evidence is that he lived as a sexual celibate.’” Todd goes on to say that in our culture sexual activity is viewed as the most direct path to personal fulfillment and self-realization, but, “from the story of [Jesus’] life we learn that sexual activity is not essential to human flourishing or personal fulfillment.” Todd writes that Jesus didn’t need sex because sex is not essential to being human.”

Clearly Joseph understood that even though sexual intimacy is essential for a healthy marriage, sexual intimacy is not essential for human flourishing. This is a profound truth to be considered by every believer today. Joseph was living God’s dream for his life and he had the maturity to wait patiently for the appropriate time to consummate his marriage with Mary. He was not driven by his desires.

God’s dream for our lives, is indeed the way to human flourishing. Jesus Christ is our example and it is our life in Christ that leads to human flourishing. But if we look to this world we will fall short of the fullness of life that only Jesus can give. So if we choose to live the dream, God’s dream for our lives we will face trouble in this world. But in the midst of trouble we will have life in Christ.

I have a friend who has a business. He had a dream for how he would grow and develop his business. His wife was deeply involved in running the business. He was the dreamer. She was the realist. When his wife would speak to him of how things were really going, he would say to her, “Don’t destroy my dreams.” His wife recently died. His dream has been altered forever. This is the way of life in this world. Reality has a way of significantly altering and maybe even destroying our dreams.

God is the only one wise enough, powerful enough, kind enough, to enable our deepest dreams to come to fulfillment. Apart from God the realization of our dreams will not fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ into the world, to do all that is necessary for us to find the fulfillment of our deepest dreams. For our deepest dreams can only find fulfillment in Jesus through the forgiveness of our sins, and the receiving of his life. Are you willing to die to your dreams? Are you ready to discern God’s dream for your life in Christ? Are you living God’s dream for your life? Amen.

Incarnational Transformation

December 3, 2017

When the news broke about Harvey Weinstein I remember one statement he made. He said, “I need help.” He is not the only one who needs help. The reality is that every one of us is driven along by passions and desires which enslave our lives. Every one of us is held captive by destructive thoughts and habits. Everyone of us is subject to respond in rage and anger. We need help.

But the problem goes deeper than this. We need help because we are alienated from God. Our natural bent is to turn away from God and be our own god. Instead of living a God-centered life, we live a self-centered life. If God is the giver and sustainer of life, to be separated from him is to ultimately forfeit our life. That’s a problem.

In the Bible we learn of how God has made it possible for us to receive and enter into his life. What is more he sent his son, Jesus to show us what that life looks like and to make it possible for us to receive his life, and have our lives transformed by him. Today on this first Sunday in Advent we are looking at Mary in Lk.1. Mary’s life was transformed by Jesus and like Mary, our lives can be transformed through Jesus Christ, the King.


When Gabriel came to Mary, Mary’s life was already very full. She was engaged to a fine man named Joseph. Joseph wasn’t rich but he was upright and highly respected in the community. Engagements generally lasted for about a year. So I imagine that Mary was busy. She had a wedding to plan. She had hopes and dreams for her life. We also get the sense that Mary was serious in her faith. She sought to live a righteous life. No doubt, in her heart she was asking for God’s blessing on her present and future plans. She was not asking for a visit from the angel Gabriel. But there he was standing in her presence.

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” In the Bible, whenever an angel appears most people are afraid. Mary was also afraid. And maybe Mary was thinking, “What’s going on? What did I do? Why would an angel be coming to me?”

“Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” In other words, God’s favor was upon Mary. Gabriel continues: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” And then Gabriel goes on to tell Mary about who Jesus would be. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

I suspect that Gabriel’s words awakened something in Mary’s heart and mind. I imagine that Mary was familiar enough with the Law and the Prophets to recognize that Gabriel was talking about the Messiah, God’s anointed King, who would come to deliver his people and bring salvation.

Suddenly Mary’s life is completely upended. This was amazing and compelling news. “Mary was going to be the mother of the Messiah?” What Jewish woman would not find that news to be profoundly compelling? But what did it mean? What were the implications for Mary? How would this impact her wedding plans and future life with Joseph? What bearing would this have on the rest of her life to become the one to bring the Savior into the world? Mary’s life was about to be disrupted.

This is how it often is with compelling news. “They have accepted our offer on the house! But now we have to pack up and move.” “We’re pregnant, woohoo! But now our lives will never be the same!”

Mary was given some amazing news. She was given the opportunity to be the mother of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior of the world. When Jesus was conceived in Mary and dwelling in Mary, her life was disrupted.

The good news of salvation is that Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, who died for our sins, and rose from the grave and ascended to the Father, and who is Lord of heaven and earth, has forgiveness of sin and eternal life in his kingdom to give. There is hope for the Harry Weinstiens of the world. There is good news for all of us who are separated from God because of our willful rejection of God and our self-centered disobedience to his good commands. Jesus is able to bring us into a reconciled relationship with God. He is able to transform our lives to be like him in our character and conduct. Who would not want to be like Jesus? But when Jesus gives his life to a person, he comes to live in that person and that person enters into an ongoing relationship with Jesus by becoming his follower, disciple. That person becomes a follower of Jesus. When Jesus comes into a life to transform that life, that life will be disrupted.

Those who follow Jesus no longer seek to live according to the self-centered thinking of the world. In 1Jn.2:16-17, John writes, “For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Those who follow Jesus seek to honor Jesus in everything they do and say. Those who follow Jesus, turn from sin and self. So the good news about life in Christ is absolutely compelling. But it is disruptive to our current ways of living. You cannot follow Jesus and continue living with yourself at the helm of your life. Either Jesus is your Lord and King or not.


Of course we don’t know what really went through Mary’s mind. But if I had been Mary my first thought might have been, “Oh, okay. Joseph and I will be married and then we will have a son. That makes sense. Thank you, Lord. How gracious!” If that in any way reflects Mary’s initial thoughts, it seems that those thoughts were quickly set aside as it began to sink in that, “No. This baby will not be conceived with Joseph. Something is different here.”

Mary knew the facts of life. Many young married woman her age were having babies. So Mary is perhaps a bit unnerved when she says, “Wait. How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel goes on to explain that this conception would be miraculous. Through the work of the Holy Spirit Mary would conceive Jesus. This pregnancy was solely the work of God. And this means that Jesus would be called the Son of God.

In other words, Jesus would not be conceived in her through human means. In fact it was humanly impossible. This gift of Jesus Christ to the world was all God’s doing.

If Mary first thought that her pregnancy would come about with Joseph, it parallels the way we normally think. When it comes to life, religion and eternity our natural orientation is to think that everything is up to us. My sense is that all of us are prone to think that if there is such a thing as salvation and eternal life, it will depend upon our ability to somehow be worthy of that salvation and life. Many people think in terms of going to heaven when they die based upon how well they performed during their time on earth. But this is not the way Scripture explains these matters. Jesus did not talk about going to heaven when we die. Jesus spoke about entering into his life and his kingdom now, before we die.

And Jesus made it clear that we cannot bring about this new transformed through our own efforts. Eternal life is offered to us on the basis of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He lived a righteous life on earth showing us what a with-God life looks like. He died on the cross bearing the guilt and penalty of sin. He rose from the dead with eternal life to give and calls all to come and receive this life that comes from God. The life conceived in Mary was from God. The life that Jesus offers to us is from God.

This transforming life comes from God through Jesus. It is a miracle. When Nicodemus came to Jesus in Jn.3 Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Born again? Nicodemus was confused, just as Mary was confused. Both Mary and Nicodumus asked, “How can this be? Well, in both cases it is solely the work of God. Only God can bring about spiritual rebirth. And he does it through Jesus Christ.


I wonder. Did Mary have a choice in the matter? Could she have said, “No! I don’t want to bear Jesus?” It’s not an easy question. However, I am inclined to think that potentially Mary could have said, “No,” because God does not seem to force anyone to embrace his will. I also believe that God sent Gabriel to Mary because he knew Mary’s heart. Mary had been saying “yes,” to God all along. One does not get the sense that Mary had to think about it for a long time before giving her answer. God’s call to her was compelling and Mary’s heart was willing.

Mary was saying, “Yes” to God. Mary was saying, “I want what God wants. I want to step into the life he is giving to me through Jesus Christ. I am willing for my life to be disrupted in order that I might have Christ.” Think about this. While Mary and Joseph knew that her conception was a miracle, few others would believe that. There would be disgrace and shame heaped upon them from the world.

The life that Jesus Christ came to give transforms our lives in such a way that we no longer think and act like the people of this world. Instead we pursue everything that is consistent with the character and conduct of Jesus. We take up our cross to follow Jesus. This world is passing away. Whatever you are trusting in to secure your life, apart from Jesus Christ, will absolutely fail you.

Jesus offers himself to you. Jesus extends his call to you. Come to me and I will give you rest. Come to me and find life that never ends. Come to me and I will cleanse you of your sins. I gave my life for you. And I will give my life to you. If you will have me.”

Will you have Jesus? Will you turn from your current life and receive his eternal life under his rule as King?

It’s amazing to think that some 2000 years ago a young unknown woman was particularized by God to bear his Son into the world. Mary heard the angel’s compelling message and her life was transformed. But what about you? When you stop and think about it, who are you? Who am I? In the grand scheme of things we are very small people. But God has particularized each one of us, bringing to us the message of transformation through Jesus Christ. Why would you not embrace Jesus Christ by faith?

At the Lord’s Table the picture of taking Christ is very clear. The bread represents his body. The juice represents his blood. When we eat and drink we are physically expressing the spiritual reality that Christ lives in us. We have his life forever. Amen