Jesus is the Best Gift Ever: Some Assembly Required
Introduction: There are some memories of Christmas gifts Marlene and I gave to our kids that remind me how we had to assemble those gifts before our kids could open them and enjoy them on Christmas day. Every time I think of some of those gifts, I also remember, there was some assembly required. I believe the same can be said about certain stories connected to the birth of Jesus. Today were considering the story of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary about the conception of Jesus. This was a moment that in order for Mary to receive this message as good news, Mary was going to have to put the pieces of the message together. Some assembly was required. I think the same can be also be said about stories of Jesus and his ministry. In order for people to receive what Jesus had to offer there were times when some assembly, some steps of responding to him was required? Christmas gifts that require assembly usually come with the following. • Picture – a diagram of what the gift should like when it is assembled. • Directions – how to put the pieces/parts together even though some people, especially guys think they don’t need instructions – you do. • Tools – You have to have the right tools, or the assembly might not get completed or there is damage to the gift as it is assembled. Let’s walk through the portion of the Christmas story about the angel’s announcement to Mary and see if perhaps there is a fresh word of meaning we can gain if we keep in mind that God can give gifts to us; but some assembly may be required. VISION/PICTURE “In the six month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” vs.26-27 Luke was writing long after the birth, death resurrection of Jesus. He was giving an account of the story of Jesus to a man named Theophilus. Judging by the name Theophilus, Theophilus was not a Jewish man. Luke was writing about the story of Jesus not for Jews; but Gentiles and Greeks. Matthew’s story of Jesus is often seen as one for the Jewish Christians, Luke’s was more for the Gentiles. Luke was creating for Theophilus a vision or picture of Jesus, as one who was so unique and comes from God, you can’t mistake the picture message Luke created. Jesus was conceived by a virgin/without an earthly father, but through his heavenly Father. “And he came to her and said, Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” Vs.28-29 This is a great part of the story that reminds us, God often brings gifts to us that need some assembly. We have to put the pieces of understanding together with our reason and hearts about what in the world God is doing and what is God is doing in us. I say this because the Bible says Mary was “perplexed and then she pondered” the message. God can bring experiences into our lives that are going to take some time and discernment of how we are to respond. Gifts God is bringing to us today might not be appreciated, understood and utilized until some point in time in the future. We might be going through a season of life today looking at circumstances and perplexed and pondering what is the big picture – what is the purpose and point? “The angel said to her, do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most-High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Vs.30-33 Have you noticed that according to Luke, Mary was not told directly Jesus is the Savior? Mary was given the titles about Jesus such as he will be “great,” “Son of the Most-High” have the “throne of David” and rule over the “house of Jacob.” But the title of Savior is not used here by the angel Gabriel. Matthew’s story or gospel has the word Savior which means one who rescues. Matthew also uses the name Immanuel – God is with us. Luke does tell us that the angels announced to the shepherds a Savior has been born and the shepherds tell this to Mary and Joseph. But Mary is not told directly informed – your baby will be the Savior. I am sure when Joseph goes forward with the marriage, there was conversation with Mary what Joseph had been told in his dream that Jesus would be a savior. We know the shepherds came and told Joseph and Mary what they had heard. But Mary never was told at this point the news Jesus would be the Savior. This is another example of how the gift of Jesus required some assembly. Mary and Joseph together had construct what was God doing through them and what is this child was destined to do? There are gifts God can be bringing to us that require some assembly. There are some gifts God may bring to us as a congregation that will require careful use of our hearts and minds in order take our next steps in ministry. Illustration – Whiteboard, use because some assembly required to avoid floating, hospice mode. Tools for Assembly Here is another point to draw on from the angel’s announcement to Mary. The angel said to Mary, “do not be afraid you have found favor with God.” In other words, in order for Mary to accept and assemble in her head and heart the gift she was being given, THE ANGEL TOLD MARY WHAT EMOTIONAL/SPIRITUAL TOOL SHE WOULD NEED TO RECEIVE THIS GIFT – COURAGE THE OPPOSITE OF FEAR. BOLDNESS THE OPPOSITE WORRY. The angel said, “do not be afraid.” Mary needed to have a courageous faith, a boldness in her trust and confidence based on who God is. Application: It could be God is providing us gifts in relationships or opportunities or with our abilities that aren’t being experienced as blessings because we haven’t yet approached those gifts with boldness and courage. It could be God is providing us with moments to experience love, joy, hope and sharing; but we are avoiding out of fear, procrastinating out of apprehension to step into those situations. Jesus did this with his disciples all the time. Crowds showed up to hear him speak and experience his power in healing. On more than one occasion after it was time for Jesus to dismiss the crowds, the crowds were hungry and he said to his disciples, “you feed them.” It is as if Jesus was saying to them what he is saying to us, “You may have a small amount of resources but be bold with what you have because you have a big God – be bold, faithful and use the gift before you. We don’t always hang onto the message “to not be afraid.” I want to use a video clip to illustrate this point. I am using a scene from Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Watch Linus very carefully. I almost didn’t use that clip because look what Linus does after he finishes reciting the scripture “do not fear.” He picks back up his security blanket and sucks his thumb. I thought Linus was going to lay down his security blanket and never pick it up again. I’m thinking this doesn’t illustrate the point I want to make. Then I thought yes it does. All of us return to our emotional security blankets’ don’t we? Or maybe we give up one thing and but pick up another. We need the Christmas message often – do not be afraid. If we are going to enjoy and experience the most of God’s presence in our relationships, abilities and opportunities we need to be reminded to not fear pursue a courageous boldness in our faith. DIRECTIONS Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin? V.34 I don’t think Mary would have asked that question, “How could this be since I am a virgin if she had already known a man sexually. Mary’s question is our question. How is God going to do something when it seems to us some of the vital resources are missing? This picture of God working without the normal human interaction is difficult to understand. Just as it can be difficult to picture how God is going to accomplish some things in your life or in our church. “The angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” v.35 Gabriel gave her direction. The power of God was going to move. The direction and guidance reminded Mary the power of God will be the difference maker. Illustration: I commented in the newsletter about a group of folks from our congregation delivering 250 flyers in the subdivisions around us with information about our church, our up-coming blood drive and Christmas Eve service. My hope is this is a situation God will use to move in the hearts of people who need God and our church. We delivered the flyers as a way to follow direction from the scriptures to share Jesus, spread the good news in the hopes of making disciples. Now we’ll see what happens. We did have one person who lives in the Ravencrest subdivision come and have coffee with me this past week and he was one of the folks who was home when we were delivering flyers last week. All we can do is follow the direction of Jesus to be his light. You know the old line, either were a part of the darkness in this world or were part of the light, so all we can do is be bold and seek to follow God’s direction to be a part of His light. I had my first opportunity to tutor at Bartlett Elementary this week. The teacher who I assisted was excited to hear a couple more of you are in the process of getting your background checks completed because there is another teacher who could use tutors. Perhaps tutoring can be a way we respond to the gift of being in this community and follow God’s direction to be an influence of light, to be a caring and serving church in our community. These repeated contacts within our neighborhood is to reveal the presence of God; not just TCC. All I can tell you is when I tutored this week, I got my grandparent-fix working with first graders. It was a blast. After I left the school, I wondered if we are the gift to them or they are the gift to us? The angel said, “And now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.”V.36 “For nothing will be impossible with God. Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Then the angel departed.” Vs.37-38 Mary’s answer was here I am. Mary’s answer to the vision, the directions, the tools and the moment was to say yes. Jesus is the best gift ever – but be warned there is some assembly required.