Advent Series: Are You Ready For Christmas?
12-09-18 Be Open To … Disappointments Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-7 Audio Blog Slides
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|Are you ready for Christmas? Well, not just yet. One of the things we know as we get ready for Christmas is that there are interruptions, just like Mary being surprised with something she wasn’t expecting, which was that she was expecting. And we’re also surprised by disappointments. I would like you to know that this is what I want for Christmas. I want a transformer from Star Trek, because as December marches on, I have this tremendous urge to be beamed up to Austin, Texas. Guess who’s in Austin?|
|They’re in Austin and they’re not here. I am disappointed. And I’m here, and I love being here. It’s a long drive to Austin. But I would need a transporter to see them before Christmas. I’m just going to have to wait, even though I’m disappointed. We usually go down to Austin in January when everything quiets down in the Church after Christmas, but dang it, we’re not going to be able to go in January either. Do you know why? January’s my birthday. For my birthday present, I should get to go to Austin in January. It’s cold. Reason we’re not going in January is they’re coming up here. That does make me happy. My son’s going to be in a wedding. And so they’ll be here around the middle of the month. So that’ll be my birthday present. And if everything goes right, then in February, which we hear is also cold, we’ll be headed down to Texas where it’ll be warmer than you will be. And then I won’t be disappointed anymore. But you see, disappointments happen to us. And they happen at Christmas.|
|Friday night, I arrived in Little Grassy Camp in Makanda, about an hour and 40 minutes south of here. A church camp. I was the teacher for a class for people beginning a type of ministry in the United Methodist Church. It’s called the certified lay minister. And these are people who will watch over youth groups in larger churches. They will be pastors in very small churches. And there’re six people in that class. You can’t quite tell, but Christine was making rabbit ears over the guy next to her. It was so exciting. I was not disappointed until I saw where I would sleep. Because you see, this is what I wanted. But it’s a church camp. Guess what I got. This is what I got [laughter]. Friends, I am not compatible with that. Not only do I feel like I’m crawling into a cave, not only do I sometimes sit up and hit my head, it’s just not long enough. You are going to be disappointed in this life. You just need to get over it. It is going to happen. You are going to be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. You see, there’s a bottom bunk, there’s a top bunk. Oh, by the way, I am not compatible with a top bunk either. I have to be in the lower bunk. In fact, not only the lower bunk, the lowest of all possible bunks. This is my bunk. There that mattress is, on the floor in front of the heater. Now I was also disappointed– it was really cold down there on the floor. And the heater would come on and it would blow the curtains open and that would shine the light right in my eyes, and that was disappointing. And I cannot explain this, though, I slept like a rock for seven hours and 12 minutes that night. I cannot explain it. I expected to wake up disappointed, disappointment didn’t happen. I outlasted my disappointment. However, last night I came home and it was so exciting to teach that class. I looked at the clock around the time I fell asleep and it actually said 5 o’clock this morning. I had no idea why I could not go to sleep last night. I’ve never fallen asleep in the middle of one my own sermons, but it could happen today. Pray for me if it does, and put a pillow under my head. Oh and, Kimble take over the rest of the sermon. That would be a disappointment to her but a joy and thrill for all of you. But that’s why I slept, and it’s bizarre, it worked. But then when I got home I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Disappointed, again. I was even more disappointed when the alarm went off and I had to get up. But I’m working my way through that because I tell you, deal with disappointment is you just keep going forward, finding the God’s way.|
|Here’s what disappointment is. You have an expectation and reality falls far short of your expectation. Now for those of you who understand math, the lower your expectations, the less you’ll be disappointed, but the higher your expectations, the more likely you will find you’re not as strong as you think you are. In fact, there’s a saying in 12-step groups in AA and such, that if you have an expectation of people, they will disappoint me, but the only cure for that is to love people just like they are; messed up, broken up, not what they should be. But if you can lower your expectations and increase your unconditional love, you will be disappointed much less. And not only that, pessimists, if they do get surprised, it’s by good news. Not all of us can lower our expectation, though, but that’s [inaudible]. That’s the recipe.|
|This is a man who was disappointed. You know why he’s disappointed? He’s thinking through the reality that he probably needs to get a divorce. One of the most painful decisions a man or a woman can make. You’ve not met him, but you know his name. His name is Joseph, and he’s disappointed. He had expectations of Mary and he believes that she had betrayed him. Scripture’s on the back page of your bulletin. Let me read it for you. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way, starting with a disappointment. When his mother, Mary, had been betrothed to Joseph, a legal agreement similar to a contract of marriage, they were considered to be married even though the wedding had not taken require. That’s why I require the divorce. Before they came together as man and wife, she was found to be with child. We know of the Holy Spirit. Verse 19. And her husband, Joseph, being a just man, and unwilling to put her to shame. He was within his rights to demand that she be executed of the crime of adultery. But Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this. As he sat with his disappointment. As he sat still and thought things over, he became still enough that he could hear the angel of God. As he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear.” Fear underlies many of our disappointments. “Do not fear to take Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call His name, Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.” Verse 22. All this took place to fulfill, with the Lord has spoken by the prophet, “Behold. A virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And his name shall be called Immanuel, which means God with us.”|
|And when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. Smart man. But he understood what the angel of the Lord commanded him because he sat still with his disappointment and thought it through. If you’re disappointed, if you sit still with God, you may hear God speaking to you about the way we resolve our [inaudible] disappointment. Verse 24. So Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took his wife but knew her not until she had borne a son. And he called His name, Jesus. Disappointments happen at Christmastime. We are involved with other people. We have expectations of them, and they break our hearts and we are disappointed. But God will speak to you if you bring your disappointment to God. That’s not the only disappointment.|
|NIne months later, or a little less than nine months later, Mary’s about to give birth. She comes to Bethlehem. There’s a lot of confusion. I would like to tell you, whatever the inn was, it wasn’t like the Holiday Inn. It wasn’t a motel that was full, but the meaning of the Christmas story is there wasn’t room for them. There wasn’t room for them. Here’s the disappointment. Luke 2:1. In those days, the decree went out from Caeser Augustus, a politician, that all the world should be enroled. This is was the first enrolment. When Quirinius was governor of Syria and all went to be enroled, each to his own city. Now, how they did taxes in the Bible is a little different to today. Everybody from Kinmundy would come back to Kinmundy to be counted. And then they go to wherever they lived now, and people in Kinmundy would have had to pay taxes on everybody who was from here. I like our system today a little better. But all of Joseph’s relatives are coming to Bethlehem. Not one of them is there to be with Mary and Joseph in the hour of their need. What a disappointment. It’s a mystery that– unless it was left out of the Bible, it’s a mystery that there was no one with them when the baby was born. It’s not recorded. Verse 4, Joseph also went out from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which was called Bethlehem, because he was of the house [inaudible] David, to be in [row?] with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for [inaudible] to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born son. And she wrapped him in swaddling cloths and she laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. That’s a disappointment. You can see in this artist’s rendering how Joseph is trying to explain to Mary that he has done [inaudible].|
|Friends, it is a commandment that you and I are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and strength. And it is a commandment that you and I are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. What we need to understand, is that we need God’s help to notice our neighbor. Because once we notice our neighbor, our nature will cause us to love our neighbor, and it’s that love that will help our neighbor know that Christ is real and that your faith is true and that Christ lives today in the hearts of human beings. It is through how we love our neighbors that the neighborhood will become redeemed. But we get so busy with the decorations and that’s a good thing. And we get so busy with the celebrations and that’s a good thing. We get so busy with all the cooking in the kitchen and all the presents under the tree, that it’s easy for us to be distracted from the people around us. And guess what, friends? They’re disappointed. Because things happen. Not just at Christmas, all year long. But especially at Christmas, things happen that break people’s hearts. And why is that? Because our expectations are higher at Christmas than they are at any other time of the year. And it seems to us that everybody else in the whole wide world is happy and we’re the only ones who are [broken?]. Well, that’s not true. But we need God’s help to notice our neighbors. I want to ask you this Christmas to be open to disappointment, to be sensitive to frowns on the faces of your neighbors. Notice that person who is so worried or excited that they can’t sleep until 5 o’clock in the morning. You will look at their face and you will say, “There’s just something wrong with that boy. I need to pray for him. He needs something.” When you notice [me?] and you notice others, and Christmas happens in their hearts. It’s been on our sign now for almost four years. The joy comes to us as we obey Jesus, as we love others– and don’t forget [inaudible] yourselves as one.|
|Well, how do I pray for my neighbors? Well, friends, there’s only three kinds of prayers. There’s help, there’s thanks, and when we see what God is doing, all too often after we say thanks, it’s just, wow. Notice your neighbor and pray for your neighbor. And if the Lord, if the spirit, if an angel says to you, “Do this,” pay attention. Because Christmas will come from your hands into the life of your neighbor, who’s broken-hearted with disappointment. Being alone with fear can rapidly turn into panic. Being alone with frustration can rapidly turn into anger. Being alone with disappointment can rapidly turn into discouragement, and even worse, despair. When people are disappointed, it’s not good for them to be alone. That’s when they need a neighbor. And if you notice their disappointment, guess which neighbor God is calling to reach out to them.|
|“20 years from now,” Jackson Brown says, “20 years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.” I’m 63 years old. I’ll be honest with you. As I look back on my own life, I am haunted by the times I should have been kind and I was too busy. I’m haunted, when I became aware later, that somebody was broken-hearted, but I had no clue. I didn’t know. So Jackson Brown says, “Set sail. Make a difference. Do something.” This is not a good time for you to get stuck in your own Christmas to the point to where you forget that everyone else should celebrate Christmas as one. We need to persevere.|
|Henry David Thoreau said, “If we will be quiet and ready enough–” remember Joseph being quiet? “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” Because if you’re patient and you let God work and you keep moving forward from the ninth to the tenth to the eleventh, eventually as you keep moving forward, you will reach what you had hoped for. Because what disappointment is really about is, it’s not happened just yet. It’s still on the way. God will help us when we persevere. And God will help our neighbor if we are willing to help our neighbor, likewise, persevere. And finally, when we focus on gratitude, the overwhelming sense of disappointment, like a tide, it recedes. And the joy and the strength of the Lord, the love of God, rushes in.|
|Last night, I was on my way home from Little Grass and [inaudible]. Driving through the darkness, and I started receiving texts from [Jimmy Lee Jones?]. He wanted me to know that Jack Brinkley was ill. He wanted me to know that Jack Brinkley was going to the hospital. And I was able to say, “I’m on my way and we going right past there.” I want to tell you, I have never met anyone as thankful as Jack Brinkley. Because if you walk into his hospital room, if you walk into the emergency room as I did last night, while the man was ill, there was a joy in his heart and he was thankful that I had taken the time to come by to visit. Now, being the pastor, you would expect I would do this. But friends, as a Christian, each one of our neighbors needs us at Christmas, because they’re disappointed. Silly little things might not get [them no sleep?]. Maybe big, gigantic things that overwhelm them with depression and despair. Our neighbors need us. And we need to notice when they’re disappointed. Please pray.|
|Lord Jesus, you came to the little town of Bethlehem. But Lord, you come to this little town, too, and to every home between here and anywhere we wish to think of. You come into our world. As the hymn we’re about to sing says, it’s our prayer that be born in us today. But Lord, if you were born in us, if you became the Lord of our life, once we gave you our love that is in our heart and soul and mind and strength, you’d say, “Now you’re ready to be [inaudible] for me.” Lord, help us not to be distracted. Help us to notice our neighbor so that we can help them with the disappointments that are so grievous and painful during the Christmas season. We ask this, in the name of Jesus Christ|
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.