Advent Week One: The Story Behind the Story!

It’s always fun to know the story behind the story.  The story of the Apollo 13 astronauts making it home safely is great but it’s even more amazing when you find out what all went on to bring them home and all the people involved.  The Seahawks win the super bowl; that’s a great story!  The story behind how Russell Wilson and others came into the Seahawk organization along with coach Pete Carroll’s gives you a greater appreciation for the Super Bowl victory.  There is always a story behind the story. 

The story behind the story of Christmas – The Greatest Story Ever Told!  The ultimate baby behind Christmas is the one promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3: 14-17.  It was the promised seed or child from Eve that would come into the world to restore relationship between God and man and vanquish mankind’s greatest enemy, Satan.  When the baby finally arrives, he arrives under very unusual circumstances.

Matthew 1: 18-25 (with comments).

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed (engaged to be married) to Joseph, before they came together, she was found (igniting a crisis and disgraced) to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly (he was contemplating breaking off the engagement – divorcing Mary). 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus (Joseph would have heard the name Joshua and immediately connected this prophecy with a deliverance from Israel’s subjugation to Rome), for He will save His people (expected military relief from Rome via Joshua’s leadership – much like when Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land) from their sins. (The other shoe drops when the deliverance will be from sin.  That’s already covered by religion and the law of Moses; however, Jesus came to save people from the penalty, power and presence of sin)” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

The big news is that Jesus is the promised seed/baby that was given to Eve.  He has come to heal the rupture in relationship that occurred in the Garden between mankind and God.  The cause of this rupture is sin.  Sin has separated man from God since that time.  It’s the ultimate long game on God’s part.  The Apostle John wrote in his Gospel…

John 3: 16-17

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son (Christmas Baby), that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.17 For God did not send the Son (Christmas baby) into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

4 Things the Christmas Baby Is…

·       The baby is reconciliation – in the familiar carol we sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, God and Sinner reconciled.” In Joy To The World we sing of the thorns and curse that God will turn back.  All these ideas come from an understanding of the story behind the story.  

·       The baby connects us with God – the eternal with the temporal.  God in Jesus became like us.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God didn’t choose to take on the likeness of Angels but rather mankind – adding to His Deity humanity.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  His atone sacrifice would span eternity as God and take effect in the human race. 

·       The baby is a promise.  Hearkening back to the Garden of Eden, God redeems mankind through a baby.

·       The baby is a paradox.  Such a strange way to save the world; through a baby.  A baby comes into the world frail, vulnerable and in need of care.  Intuitively, we would expect almighty God to suddenly appear in human history executing judgment.  Rather, He comes bringing peace and reconciliation through Himself (in Jesus, 2nd Person of the Trinity).

Above all else – this is God’s plan and movement of Love.  God’s plan is proactive.  Love makes the first move and is willing to be misunderstood, vulnerable and even hurt to make it happen.  John the Gospel writer also wrote that God first loved us.  We think we love Him; however, it is God Who comes and looks for us.

What does the baby mean to you? 

God came into a hostile world of people with no desire for Him because He loved them in their broken condition.  The world is wrapped up in the selfishness, pain, poor choices, anger and resentment – He came to say “I love you.”

He didn’t only come to say “I love you”; the other shoe drops when He says, I came to “give my life a ransom for many.”  A cosmic rescue mission that is centuries in motion including to this moment.  That we might know peace with God, freedom from slavery to sin and new life – He came.”

This Christmas I want you to think about those who will not be at your table.  I want you to think about those who don’t want to be with you.  It’s easy to go to those who agree with us, look like us and act like us.  Will you go to the others?  Will you dare to be vulnerable, risk being misunderstood and push past awkwardness to share the love of God with them? 

There are people in our lives who will not make the first move.  They will die angry, bitter and disappointed with life and maybe even you.

Church – This is our calling.  Christmas is to remind us of what we’re to be doing - going to the people around us and being the body of Christ – heralds of the Kingdom of God.  A beautiful, bright and powerful light that announces salvation. 

THAT’S IF… What if we don’t get caught up in the hoopla, rat race and shiny objects of this world.  If we don’t sell our souls to fortnight, entertainment, materialism and modern idolatry.

What if you called that person, you’re at odds with this right now? 

What if you forgave your parents, child or co-worker? 

Imagine the impact your call or text could have on the person who feels like they have been forgotten by everyone? 

Who do you need to serve with kindness and care for?  Who is that one person that needs a kind word, encouragement, forgiveness or grace?

The story behind the story is the baby behind Christmas – God’s long and persevering story of Salvation.

Go!  Stop reading this and go – make that call, see that person and go like Jesus - to them.

Vince Armfield