Third Sunday of Advent – December 15, 2019
As a child, I was always very fascinated by the notion that Santa was able to deliver so many toys to all the children in the world. Perhaps you can relate to this feeling.
In the video clip, you’ll see shortly, Santa tells how he manages to deliver the toys to all the children of the world in a single night. Let’s hear his explanation. (Play the video clip of Santa explaining how he delivers toys to all the children in one night.)
How amazing is that! Now we know how Santa manages to do it.
Sure you must be doubting what I’m saying. Maybe you’re thinking his method is totally ludicrous. I see how most of you are looking at me with a questioning expression wondering what on earth this explanation has to do with the Christmas story.
1. God’s ways of letting the wonder of Christmas happen, transcend us
I think the way this fits into the Christmas story, lies in the very fact that God’s methods have a way of transcending us. They are a mystery and go beyond our understanding. We hear Paul saying the following according to Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
Indeed, the way in which God makes things happen is beyond our understanding. Isn’t this abundant reason and cause for joy?
Imagine us writing a script for the way humankind could be redeemed from all our woes. Our script would look quite different from God’s script. God’s choice is for Himself to be revealed in the greatest and grandest way possible. It would be understandable for us. What did God do? God let his Son be born as a helpless, defenceless baby.
God’s choice was to be born from a very simple couple, a poor couple, holding no influence in society. Plain, unassuming parents were chosen to be the parents of Jesus. They were astounded at the magnificent thing that happened to them.
2. God’s ways of making things happen include us.
When this huge event of Jesus’ birth occurred, it was angels who announced the birth. But to whom do they go and tell this wondrous news? Indeed, to shepherds, and not to kings and queens, nor to religious leaders or military generals. The biggest announcement for humankind is made to humble shepherds doing their job by caring for a flock of sheep. How incredible is that?
Every single aspect of how the Christmas wonder happened thwarts convention. The Prince of Peace’s reception didn’t happen in royal palaces, how it happened, was in a stable, lying in a manger. The joy among the angelic choir could not be contained.
God’s method truly is astounding.
We hear how the apostle Paul describes the wonder of how it happened. “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NRSV).
Why would this be? God’s methods seem to be consistent. They don’t change. God uses very ordinary, relatable people to do extraordinary work. It isn’t about our abilities. It’s about how available we are and with which attitude we show up. It is to you and me that God hands the best news on earth. When God works through our simplicity, we become “empty” vessels that accomplish great things. “It’s the crack where the light comes in”, as the song goes.
3. It is God’s way of doing things that redeems us
There is one more thing, among the many aspects of God’s methods, that we can do well in understanding. God works in ways that we will never understand.
Our lives are riddled with problems, pains and pressures. We can’t escape the hardships. There are temptations that we would prefer to side-step. God takes us through them. If God takes us to difficulties, God will also take us through them. When we take on step forward, it feels like we slip back three steps.
There are no simple explanations for our human struggles. When we go through fires, the flames will not consume us. If there is a flood of water, so to speak, somehow God assures us that we won’t drown. God bears us through it all.
God is at work in our lives to produce a beautiful tapestry.
From our perspective here on earth, we only see the back of the embroidery. But the front reveals a beautiful picture. We are looking at the underneath side and don’t understand why it looks so ugly, why it seems so confusing. It is impossible for us to understand all the different knots and colours and seemingly random directions our lives have taken.
But one day, we will finally be able to see from the top side this tapestry God has been weaving of us. We will then be able to see how the seasons of pain brought some rich, vibrant colours to our tapestry.
We will see the fullness and richness of the design reflected in the seasons of joy and celebration. We will see the depth of character revealed through the times of testing and trusting.
The miracle of the method is that God uses ordinary people like you and me to accomplish extraordinary things for the sake of his kingdom. The miracle of how it happens is also that God is at work in our lives in ways that we do not understand. Therefore we are invited to trust what we know to be true because of what God has revealed through his Son. We can indeed be filled with awe and we may most definitely rejoice about how God made this wonder happen!
1.) Adapted from an Advent series by Greg Fine, with this part being “The Miracle of the Method – Romans 11” (at www.lifeway.com)
Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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