December 24, 2017
Sometimes it’s not easy to have faith. Have you ever been there? You wonder where God is in the midst of your pain. It can be a job loss, a death, a relationship ends, a bad grade on a final exam, sickness . . . we could go on and on with reasons to struggle with faith. We all go through this to one extent or another.
Yet, one of the great aspects which I think we often miss at Christmas time is the fact that God cares about the world. In fact, more than caring, God loves you and I. That’s the only reason He sent His Son into the world. It’s all because of love. Jesus came into the world to save us from our sinfulness and to have a relationship with us.
We are just a few hours away until Jesus arrives. Our time of preparing, our time of being expectant is upon us. We wait for Him, not so that we can open presents, that’s a side benefit, but we wait for Jesus to arrive so we can experience His presence. He can bless us with salvation, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with a renewed sense of purpose and passion.
There are so many people, Christians, in fact, who need the power of Jesus in their lives. We need Him to help us heal those fractured relationships. We need His help to break down those walls we’ve built. We need Him to bring us peace in the midst of our fear and anxiety. We need Jesus to restore our hearts, to give us hope, to give us strength and courage to face whatever comes our way.
Christmas reminds us that the God we serve is the God who does these very things. An angel of the Lord appeared before Joseph and said ~
20 “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:20-22
God with us. That’s who Jesus is. He is not some distant, foreign god. He has promised us over and over again – – to be with us, never to abandon us. So, you are not alone this Christmas. Christmas means we are never alone. No matter how things may appear in your life, you are not alone.
This morning I want to look at some of the story of Mary, as she exemplifies what it means to live a life of faith.
Mary was that young girl, a teenager, maybe 16, engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, when an angel of the Lord appeared appeared to her and said ~
28 “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
The Bible tells us that Mary was troubled at his words, and wondered what they meant. The angel continued and told her ~
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered 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 called holy — the Son of God.
36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the 6th month with her who was called barren.
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” – Luke 1:31-37
How overwhelming is that to hear? Yet, in a few moments Mary would make an amazing statement back to the angel ~
38 “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38
Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin, and the child she was expecting was John the Baptist – – the same John the Baptist we looked at the past 2 weeks. At this point, all Mary knew was that her older and childless cousin — was now having an experience similar to hers. Let’s look at what happened next ~
39 Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary exemplifies the life of faith and obedience, and she was blessed by God because, as Elizabeth said, she believed that what the Lord said to her would be accomplished.
Remember, as we look at this story, we know how the story ends. Mary didn’t.
Mary clearly knew something miraculous happened. She also had to know she was about to embark on a very difficult journey. She was unmarried. She knew what people would think. She knew what her husband-to-be would think.
She DID NOT know how people would react, how Joseph would react, how her family, his family, her friends – – how would they react? She only knew what God had promised her. That was all she had to cling to, but it was enough for her.
God chose this teenage girl to bring His Son into the world, to care for Him, to nurture Him, to teach Him how to walk and talk and read and pray and obey, and to stay with Him until the very end.
As Elizabeth said ~
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary believed! Mary had faith in what God told her. Faith in what she could not see. It must have seemed far fetched, but after visiting with Elizabeth, it had to become more and more real. God would fulfill the promises He made to her.
And in the same way, God will fulfill His promises to us as well – – – He tells us ~
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
I am with you always, even to the end of time.
All things work together for your good.
I will give you your heart’s desires.
If you have the smallest kernel of faith, you can move mountains.
I will forgive your sins and remember your iniquities no more.
I will give you the strength to overcome temptation.
I will use you to make a difference in the world.
I will fill your heart with joy and peace and love.
I will give you abundant life today and life everlasting, tomorrow
When you receive the Holy Spirit, you will receive power to do great things.
I could go on and on. There are hundreds of promises throughout Scripture that apply to us. God has made promises to you. This is why it is so important to spend time in the Word and let Him speak to us through Scripture. We experience His promises through His Word and we learn to live a life of faith.
– – We’re called to keep believing even when others don’t believe as you do.
Again, Mary knew people would talk. Maybe Joseph would leave her. Mary knew that maybe no one would ever believe her story. She would have to sacrifice her reputation, she’d be the subject of gossip, and maybe be rejected by her family.
She said ~ 38 “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Even if all this happens, I will stay faithful to the God who has chosen me.
There are times when we too have been misunderstood. We tried to help our children by doing the best we could. We poured our lives into our kids, we made sacrifices, but at some point we hear – – “why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that? Why were you so strict? Why weren’t you stricter?” And on and on.
We fight for our spouse, children, family, friends. We do it because of love – – but we’re misunderstood. Nobody sees the heart breaking behind closed doors. And we feel all alone against the world.
We engage in a ministry, and we find after many years of sacrifice, many years of devotion, people think we’re in it for ourselves. That we’re not concerned about the ministry. Our hearts break in those moments. People get judged by those who don’t have all of the facts and there is hurt. People will jump to conclusions without any facts.
We do what is right, what is noble, what is pure, what is most excellent. We do it at work, or in relationships . . . we live with integrity, respect, morals, ethics . . . and somehow the world turns against us. We don’t understand, we don’t get it.
When this happens, follow Mary’s example. Keep believing, keep trusting God. Keep relying on His promises. You only have One Master, and He knows your heart and your situation and in fact, He knows your way out, too! Don’t give up, don’t give in to the demands of the world! Make your requests known to the Father. He hears you! He will answer you too, with His presence.
Another way to follow Mary is to take the high road when the road gets rough. Keep Believing even when the road gets rough.
When the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, he didn’t conclude the announcement by saying, “Because you’re the mom of the Son of God, the Messiah!! You’re going to live in a mansion. You’ll have catered meals and servants waiting on you.” We might argue Mary deserved this luxury.
But that’s not the life God calls us to. He calls us to a life which comes with a price tag. He calls us to a life of sacrifice. Mary was called to live a very difficult life, yet, instead of being given a life of luxury, she was called to live a simple life.
Her husband was a carpenter. They lived in a poor community in Galilee. When she was 8 months pregnant, she was required to take a long journey to a distant city, where she gave birth to her child, not in a comfortable home or hospital, surrounded by a loving family, but alone, in a stable, surrounded by farm animals.
Sometimes the road gets rough. Sometimes the road is bumpy and crazy; and there’s no way of avoiding the potholes and detours of life. Sometimes we ask, “God, why don’t you make this easier? Why does this need to be so painful, so difficult?”
Sometimes, when we seek to live a life of faith, we will travel a bumpy, winding road. It applies to all of us. It feels like we’re always climbing uphill. But God is calling upon us to beat down a path to His throne room, to straighten out those curved roads, to make smooth those bumpy roads.
It’s not easy, but God promises us He will be with us . . . always!
After Jesus had been born, and the angels announced His birth and the shepherds came, we read ~
19 Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. – Luke 2:19
I’m not sure what Mary was pondering in her heart, but I wonder if she would remind herself of that day and tells herself – – – “It’s worth it. Every difficult day. Every whispered rumor. Every step of this journey. It’s all worth it, because look at what God has given me.”
Even in the midst of our troubles, can we keep the faith, keep believing in God, even when the road gets rough? We know this wasn’t the norm. Yet, Mary kept believing in the seemingly impossible.
Mary was a single woman, engaged but not married. She was a virgin, and she was faithful to God and the man He had placed in her life. Then the impossible happened: she became pregnant. She asked the angel, “How can this be? I’ve never been with a man.” And the angel said ~
37 For nothing will be impossible with God. – Luke 1:37
That’s it! That’s the entire answer to one of the deepest questions we can ask! The solution to your situation may seem impossible. Humanly speaking, maybe it is. But we believe in a God and we serve a God who is not bound by human limitations. Our God has and will continue to intervene in human history.
You may think that a broken relationship can’t be saved, but with God nothing is impossible. And if that relationship isn’t saved, you may think there is no way you could ever continue on your own. But with God nothing is impossible.
You may think there is no solution for your health problems, but with God nothing is impossible. And if your health problems are now a permanent part of your life, you may think there is no way you can ever learn to cope. But with God nothing is impossible.
And you may think that your financial problems are too enormous to be resolved, but with God nothing is impossible. And you may think that you could never be happy or content if you had to live a life of less, but with God nothing is impossible.
This is why Paul said ~
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
Prior to that, Paul said, ‘If the road is easy or the road is rough, if I travel alone or with many, if I live in abundance or in want, God will give me the strength to face the future.’
Nothing is impossible with God. Mary believed in the God of the impossible. If you’re tempted to say: I could never do this, I could never try that, I won’t survive in this situation — don’t believe it. Believe instead in the God of the impossible.
If you believe that nothing is impossible with God, and that He’s going to help you overcome in any situation, then it is doesn’t matter what other people think or feel or say. If you believe nothing is impossible with God, then you can endure the rough road and the long journey, because you know what’s waiting for you. Mary was blessed because she chose to believe what God promised.