This 2017 sermon has become one of my favorite Christmas messages!
Many of us are familiar with the story of Jesus coming in the form of a baby birthed by the virgin, Mary. We talk about the wise men bringing gifts and King Herod’s pursuit to kill the baby, Jesus.
But what’s less talked about in the Christmas story of Jesus are the nuances of the circumstances surrounding His birth. Bishop TD Jakes masterfully walks us through some of the details of the moments leading up to Jesus’s coming through the lens of today.
Here are some of the power points (no, not the app).
The Circumstances By Which We Travel Is What Causes Our Faith To Be Significant
It’s not just how far we have to go in our travels, it’s the circumstances that surround them that make or break us. Whether we know what it is or not, the destination [in life] is set. It’s not about changing the destination, it’s about managing the circumstances that happen along the way.
Philippians 3.14 talks about pressing towards the mark (or the goal of being Christ-like). This kind of mark (goal) doesn’t change. It is where it is.
Remember: It was a 3-day journey to the promised land that took 40 years to complete. The promised land didn’t move. But the circumstances were ever-changing — and managed poorly.
We Read The Bible From The Other Side Of The Story
Without question, the Bible gives us hope and perspective about what’s happening and where we’re going. It’s a privilege beyond comparison to having that at our hands. But have you ever thought about what the people were thinking and feeling as they were going through all of this prior to the Bible being written?
We have the distinct advantage of hindsight that they didn’t always have. But more importantly, we read the Bible knowing how the story ends. But they didn’t always.
It’s a humbling and enlightening experience to try and place ourselves into their shoes during their time to imagine what this might’ve been like. And to have the kind of faith that they had.
Can Christ Be Born Into A Dysfunctional Family?
Yes, the Bishop went there. We don’t really think about the Christmas story of Jesus being dysfunctional and chaotic. But it was without question — especially by today’s standards.
- Being Joseph, a man of noble lineage (Luke 2.4), and your fiancé (whom you have not yet married) becomes pregnant. Pregnant by God that is
- Joseph is now engaged to a now pregnant woman in which he knows that the baby isn’t his own and could not be. Matthew 1.18
- Imagine Joseph having to explain this to friends and family
- Joseph, still loving his fiancé, Mary, wants out of the engagement and to divorce her quietly to save himself from embarrassment; and to save her from ridicule, shame, and punishment (for infidelity). Matthew 1.19
- Before Joseph can go through with the divorce, an angel of the Lord appears to him confirming that Mary is telling the truth and that her pregnancy [and baby] is from God. Matthew 1.20-21
- Joseph’s faith and reasoning are in conflict because he has to believe something that common sense says is impossible. After all, when has God ever impregnated someone without another human?
- God sends confirmation [through the angel] that Mary is telling the truth. And now Joseph has to make amends that perhaps she’s right and he was wrong
- Mary was telling the truth about her pregnancy but her fiancé, Joseph, didn’t initially believe her. Have you been in a relationship with someone that didn’t believe the truth you were giving them?
- Mary and Joseph are trying to move along following the revelation of this, but remember that Joseph has already revealed his intent and desire to divorce and get rid of her. How comfortable are you going into a marriage with a man that has made it known that he was about to dump you?
- If the baby drama wasn’t enough, imagine now: A new census (tax) has been declared. In order to be counted (and pay the tax), the groom (Joseph) must return to his hometown (Bethlehem). Luke 2
- Mary and Joseph, still at odds with each other, have to travel through the desert, pregnant, on a donkey
Imagine this drama with your soon-to-be spouse: An unexpected baby, a crisis that makes Joseph look like a fool, a new debt (census/tax), and they have to walk all the way to Joseph’s hometown.
Joseph and Mary were trying to find God in the situation; a messy situation at that. God was there all along, but they didn’t know how the story would end.
It’s interesting as to why God would pick these circumstances to be born into.
He’s Not Just God Of The Victory, He’s God Of The Battle That Preceded It
God is not just Lord over our destination in life. He’s also Lord over the circumstances that lead up to it. And… He’s always in control. Even when the chaos screams otherwise.
“When you’re in the night, you can’t see the morning. Weeping endures for a night.” — Bishop TD Jakes
Watch or listen to the full sermon: The God of The Night Before by Bishop TD Jakes.
What are your thoughts on this message from Bishop TD Jakes? Does this message change your perspective on the Christmas story? Sound off in the comments below.