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He Came for You


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Here in a nutshell – contained within the most famous and oft-quoted passage of Scripture is the real reason for the Christmas season – Jesus came for you!

When I was growing up, I like most of you looked forward to Christmas morning when we all got to open our presents. And like most kids I would spend the weeks and months leading up to Christmas making my lists and circling items in the catalogue so that my parents would know the perfect things to get me. But as I got older another tradition started to emerge:

Every year my mother would sit me down and let me know that times were tough – that money was tight and that I needed to understand that it wasn’t going to be as lavish a Christmas as I had been accustomed to. She warned me that I needed to lower my expectations because she and my Dad couldn’t provide all the things I really wanted – they just couldn’t afford them. I had to lower my expectations so that I wouldn’t be hurt and disappointed on Christmas morning.

I wonder at Christmas how many of you feel that way too.

Not about the gifts, or about the money but about your expectations. You hear year in and year out about the miracle of Christmas – about the gift of a saviour, about the free invitation for all, to God’s great Christmas celebration – but you can’t honestly believe that He means that gift is for you.

You’re not that type of person.

You aren’t that fortunate.

You’re not that loved.

You’re not that worthy.

So you lower your expectations so as not to be hurt and disappointed when another Christmas comes and the gift under the tree doesn’t have your name on it. You’re all grown-up on the outside but deep down you’re still that kid circling items in the catalogue – the only difference is that instead of toys, and games and bikes and trains the things you circle are things like love and acceptance, hope and peace, joy and fulfilment.

But you’ve been taught not to expect too much.

Those types of gifts are for other people.

Not you.

Not on Christmas.

There is a problem with that line of thinking: Christmas according to the Bible was never about the lowering of expectations - Christmas was all about God exceeding expectations in the lives of people who were conditioned not to expect much.

Consider the story of Mary:

A young woman of probably around 14 years old who is visited by an angel and told that she has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Fourteen and pregnant, unmarried and the baby doesn’t belong to the man she is betrothed to. You would be hard pressed to find a demographic of person in Mary’s society more vulnerable and reviled – more hopeless and helpless than a young girl pregnant out of wedlock with no man willing to take responsibility for her and the child.

The rumours, the shame, the stigma of such an event – I know that Luke records her unsurpassed joy at the news but have you ever wondered what she felt after the news sunk in? Her life was ruined, her wedding was to be called off – how would she care for this child alone? Who would believe the explanation of crazy Mary about her immaculate conception? What sort of life could she realistically expect for herself and her son after this series of events?

I’m sure she didn’t expect much – but God exceeded her expectations. Through that first Christmas Mary received from God a gift of peace for the vulnerable and helpless. Jesus came for her.

Then there’s the account of her fiancé Joseph.

By all accounts a righteous man; a man who followed God and cared for Mary deeply. He wakes up one morning and finds that the woman he had pledged himself to – the woman who would be his wife is pregnant with someone else’s baby. More than that she won’t even fess-up to her infidelity, instead insisting on spouting some ridiculous story about an angelic visitation and the son of God.

Perhaps she wasn’t the girl he thought she was. He is betrayed. He’s broken. The rumours around town start to get louder – his reputation is ruined. He is shamed and hurt – and most of all confused. Where was God in all of this? How could he allow this to happen to him? Where was the fairness and justice in all of this? Broken, hurt, betrayed – Joseph I’m certain had given up expecting anything from God at this point. How could a situation like this be redeemed? But on that first Christmas night the gift of Christmas came to him too. To Joseph came a Gift of hope for the lost and confused. Jesus came for him.

Then there are the Shepherds – keeping watch in their flocks by night.

Smelly, unwashed, uncultured, unwanted Shepherds. No one wanted anything to do with them all the same. The outcasts, the reviled, the under-class of society that no one wanted to acknowledge. If God was going to do something for the world these are the people who would expect to only hear about it in third or fourth hand accounts long after the fact – but on that first Christmas night the gift of Christmas came to them in the proclamation of an Angel and the terrifying shout of the heavenly host. A gift of love for the unwanted outcast. Jesus came for them.

And of course there were the Magi:

A group of astrologers from a far away land. They weren’t part of the people of God. They weren’t even from a group on friendly terms with the “right “people. They believed the wrong things, worshipped the wrong god, were born into the wrong culture and consequently weren’t privileged enough to have any access to or relationship with their creator. But they longed to know the truth, and they earnestly sought the divine and on that first Christmas Night – though they were pagan clergy – playing for the wrong team the gift of Christmas came to them. God placed a star in east to lead them to the one who was worthy of their worship. A gift of Joy for those seeking answers. Jesus came for them.

Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Magi – they all had something in common. They didn’t expect the Gift of Christmas to come with their name on the tag. They had been taught by history, society, experience and their own insecurities to lower their expectations – but Christmas came to them all the same. Mary was highly favoured by God and received a son. Joseph was tasked with the immeasurable honour of caring for and protecting the infant Messiah. The Shepherds were the first people to receive the King of Kings. And the Magi found in a little boy the answers to the greatest question ever pondered. To each one of them the gift of Christmas came in the person of Jesus.

And he comes for you too.

After weeks of warning us kids that Christmas was going to be meagre the day would finally arrive and we would (after being preceded by Dad who would make sure the tree was lit and the room was ready) move into the living room where we discovered a mountain of presents beyond our wildest dreams. I can say with integrity that there was never a Christmas in my childhood that met my expectations – only Christmases that exceeded them.

And it wasn’t clever manipulation by my parents. As I grew older and learned more about my folks I discoverd that the Christmases were always as tight as my mother made them out to be. That my parents were probably foolish in the amount of money they spent lavishing gifts on us kids. That the debt they incurred plagued them for long after the holiday – but it mattered not in the end because they looked on us with love and said we were worth it. And that’s the way God looks at you.

This is the miracle of Christmas – that we who were far from God, receive the gift of God drawing near to us. That we who have been taught to lower our expectations receive a gift that exceeds our wildest dreams. Hear the words that follow that most famous verse in the Bible:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:17-18

Jesus came to this world on that first Christmas night to change our fortunes; to reframe our destinies, to draw near to them those who had no business expecting a gift from God let alone a personal relationship with their creator. He didn’t come to bring condemnation – we already knew all about that – we lived in it and sadly many of us are still living in it – he came to release us from that condemnation. He came to bring love to the outcast, peace to the troubled, hope to the hopeless, Joy to the longing heart – he came to bring us himself. Emmanuel. God with us.

#Christmas #Holidays #LongForm

The Bridge Church

of the Christian and Missionary Alliance

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