Christmas is the time of the unexpected. When you think about the Christmas story, there's a lot of unexpected events that took place. Have you ever had anything happened that you didn't expect to happen? it's kind of like life isn't it? Things happen. (That’s the way we say it!)
Unexpected events, unusual things happen to a young girl who has been arranged to marry a carpenter. There's several reasons why they think that might not have been Joseph's first marriage. He was probably older than her, and maybe quite
a bit older. We don't read about or hear about him later in in Jesus life at 33 years of age. There's no mention of Joseph and it’s Mary that stands at the cross when Jesus being executed and and He tells John to take care of her.
So a lot of unexpected things happen to Mary. They paid the dowry and everything was all set up and arranged. She was betrothed. It’s not like today where a young couple fall in love and then move in together, rather the way it's supposed to be where they date and get to know each other while living at home, their own homes, separate homes, and then they get engaged and then they get married. That's the way it ought to be! But in those days the betrothal was what we would call an engagement, but it was like a contract. I mean there was no contact between them they waited for the day they would be publicly married. That was very strongly held in their culture, it was very strong in their culture. As a matter of fact if you broke the betrothal it was like a divorce, even though you had never been married, so it was a very serious thing
Something very unexpected happened. An angel appeared to Mary. Now, how many of you have ever heard had an angel appear to you? If you have you’re not going to admit it now but you know this is not something that happens very often. An angel appeared to Mary, spoke favorable to her, and said, “You're highly favored.” She was just a young girl, a teenager no doubt, and
and then he said, “You're so highly favored that you're the chosen one to bring the Messiah into the world! The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you're gonna have a child! Now that’s unexpected. She said she didn't know how was this could happen, but she said, “Nevertheless, let it be unto me according to your word.” She was agreeable to be the chosen handmaiden, but it it was totally unexpected.
How do you explain this? Nobody's going to believe you. You know other people have claimed angelic interventions causing them to have a child, but we didn't believe them. If somebody said, “Oh, it was an angel.” “Yeah right, is that what you call him (or her)” we would respond. I call my wife an angel too!
So no wonder Joseph struggled to understand this development. The older and wiser husband to be, Joseph, is trying to figure it out, “What am I going to do?” Can he trust this young girl? They were supposed to get married. The marriage celebration is a community event. Everyone shares in the joyous occasion. It is supposed to be blessed by the community and the elders. Everything was going to be great and now she's pregnant!
When I was growing up we didn't even say that word, “Pregnant.” We said, “She's
expecting.” I think I was probably married and may have had our first child before I could even say the word pregnant in public. I was sheltered and I’m happy that I was.
So, she’s expecting the unexpected.
Paul Harvey used to say she's “infanticipating” (a mix of infant and anticipating).
So, how do you explain that? Well, you don’t.
Joseph thought about it. We have just got to keep this quiet. He considered the option to put her away. I don't know if that meant stone her or what, but but maybe he was thinking, I’ve got to get rid of this woman, or perhaps he was thinking to put her away for her own safety. The passage in Scripture said, “He thought about putting her away privately, but while he was thinking about it an unexpected thing happened. There was another appearance of an angel.
They kept Gabriel busy there for a while, delivering messages and setting the stage. The same angel appears to Joseph and said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary to be your wife.” She's already promised, already betrothed to him. Don't be afraid to continue planning for a marriage was the message from the angel. He continued to explain, “For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She's telling you the
truth. She's gonna bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus. for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Mary had something very unexpected happen. Joseph had something very
unexpected happen. Then there was that census idea. Whose idea was that?
The IRS is not very kind sometimes and they don't work on your schedule. They have their own schedule and their own rules. Well, it wasn’t the IRS but it was demanded from the authorities. All people in Israel were required to go to their home
town and register for the census. They probably protested, “But you don't understand! My wife is infanticipating and she's getting pretty close to her due date.” They didn't care. You have got to go to Bethlehem. You're of the tribe of Judah. That’s your hometown. You have to go. So, they prepared and made the trip, an unexpected trip. They didn't really plan on making that trip. Sometimes unexpected things happen.
When they got there there were more unexpected circumstances. There was no place to stay. There was no Hotwire or Priceline to compare prices and book hotels. There was no Yelp available to read the reviews. As a matter of fact, there were no hotels. All they had were some people who would let strangers come in for a night or so. It was a place to rest. A pallet on the floor. Basically shelter and perhaps something to eat. There was probably some form of payment, some gold or grain, or the exchange of some goods. They may have had a spare room, or a few rooms, just a place where people could stay. However, because everybody was coming into town, all those of the tribe of Judah, there was simply no place to stay. Everybody's house was full and there was no place to lodge.
In the Scripture it's called an inn and we kind of think it is like Motel 6 or something like those fine establishments, but it not even that. It was unexpected that there would be absolutely no place to stay. Joseph must have thought, “How am I gonna take care of this woman? Now she's become my responsibility. God said take care of her, and so, what am I gonna do now?
The unexpected location: Bethlehem. The unexpected lodging: a stable, a cave, a barn. Whatever accommodation there was where they lodged for the night, and then guess what? — the unexpected event! “Joseph, I think it’s time!”
Joseph probably thought, “My Lord, help! I've never delivered a baby.” Perhaps he had assisted in the birth of a sheep or a goat in the past, but this was different. So he had an unexpected assignment. He is called on to deliver a baby!
Perhaps you’ve heard of unexpected deliveries. Sometimes in a backup seat of a taxi or in a car on the roadside. I've heard stories where policemen had to help deliver a baby at the side of the road. One wasn't too long ago. It was a rookie Highway Patrol in California. He had the nurse on the phone giving him instructions while he was coaching the mother through the delivery. They successfully delivered the baby and it was born healthy. They got to the hospital and both baby and mother were fine.
Joseph didn't have any 911 calls. They didn't have anybody. He didn’t have a Midwife. Nobody was there to help. That's pretty unexpected, and then the
baby came, and then the unexpected company showed up. The shepherds arrived. “How did y'all hear about this?” Oh, social media right? Yeah, somebody snap-chatted, “Angels you won't believe what just happened here!”
There was none of that, but the angel addressed the shepherds and said,”There's born to you this day in the City of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord! You're gonna find him in a stable lying in a manger.” So they went to find him in an unexpected place.
Then there were the wisemen. Where did they go? To Jerusalem. They went the expected place, the place of royalty. They went to the palace went to the places where they would expect a king to show up. They were following the star they didn't notice that the GPS was going away from Jerusalem. They said “Oh it's one of those Google things! It’s probably here and GPS is off track.” They got the scholars together and they said, “Oh yeah, well that's gonna happen in Bethlehem, but no it's not
time for that now. They were expecting the Lord to arrive at that moment and they
didn't even bother to go to Bethlehem, just to check it out!
It was a short distance away, perhaps a day’s walk, but not so far away when a king is born. The wise men sought him out and they found him — so unexpected.
There are a lot of unexpected things in life. The road has some very unexpected twists and turns and there may be some things happen this Christmas that are really
unexpected. You didn't really think things were going to turn out this way. Life has a way of doing that whether it's Christmas or whether it's any other time of year. It’s just life, and we often find ourselves in the place of the unexpected.
However, there were some expecting what happened!
Besides Mary, there were prophets who expected His arrival. Isaiah had a lot of prophecies about it. It's going to happen! A virgin will conceive and bring forth a son.
This is what's going to happen. He will be the wonderful, counselor, mighty God, the everlasting father, and the Prince of Peace. Micah said it's gonna be in Bethlehem. Daniel said it's gonna be at the appointed time and all of these prophecies from from the Psalms through the prophets declared that he would come. It was like everything was all pointing to that event. The star said this is it. This is the way. He is here! Follow the star.
So in all of these unexpected events it was all expected in a different dimension on a different plain and God was bringing all these things together. Every occurrence was to happen at the right time, in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4). God brought it to pass and brought all things together.
Simeon expected it. He had a promise that I won't die until I see Him and
every day he went to the temple waiting to see him.
Anna had a promise that she would see Him and she kept waiting and serving. She was getting old. Simeon was growing old, but they had a promise and they knew that it's about time for His arrival.
In this whole world of unexpected events it was expected. All of heaven anticipated this event. It was happening. It was coming to fulfillment and here it was.
The prophetic clock was just bringing it all to pass and everything was coming together at the right time and in the right place. So many people just weren't aware of these momentous events. Really just a few.
When we tell the Christmas story today it feels like it was everywhere, everybody knew about it. In reality, it was just Mary and Joseph alone in the world. If it hadn't been for the angels’ announcements there wouldn't be anyone at the stable. The shepherds wouldn’t have been there. If it hadn’t been for the star and the predictions to guide the wisemen from a distant land they would not have come looking for the child. Those who were all around didn't expect him and they didn't find Him , because thy did not expect Him to appear. Here we are over 2,000 years later talking about that unexpected event. As a matter of fact even our calendars point back to His birth and His life, before Christ, and in the year of the Lord. All around the world we're celebrating Christmas, the fact of HIs birth!
There are people celebrating all kinds of things, and these things can
be so distracting and so confusing but the fact that Christmas is still being celebrated and it started out with just a handful of people that knew about it. The unexpected became the turning point of all history, the pivotal point of all eternity brought to pass right there at that seemingly insignificant moment.
That was a Christmas to remember This week I heard of some somebody going through this difficult time and I just sent a text and said, “Do you know this could be a Christmas to remember, and so that just kind of worked its way into my thoughts tonight. Sometimes the most difficult circumstance can be the biggest blessing. We may say, “Lord don't bless me like that this year!” Those difficult circumstance can
be your biggest blessings. That’s really tough. We don't really want to hear that.
Life-changing events are usually not winning the lottery and it usually doesn't change people for the better. Even if that happened, usually the significant life-changing events are the tragedies, the difficulties, the rock-bottom devastation, the unexpected situation. So it seems like that that's the moments that really get us Things that change our lives are the things we didn't expect
I think one of the most noteworthy Christmases that we remember, that our
kids remember, was a year when we went to Arkansas. We liked to go to my parents house for Christmas because they always had lots of food and gifts and celebration. When we went we didn't realize it would be our last Christmas as a family all together
before our daughter got married That year we had a big ice storm in Arkansas. We rented a car in Tulsa and drove to Fayetteville. That car sat in the driveway the whole week we were there. For two or three days nobody went anywhere. We had an ice
storm supreme. It brought down power-lines and we were without electricity for thirty-six hours. So we were in the dark and went to bed early. Dad had a generator so we could kick it on and make coffee and run the microwave when necessary. They have an electric house so it was kind of difficult to cook any other way. They have a fireplace and wood stove so we had heat we gathered around the fireplace. It was difficult but yet that Christmas became the most memorable one for our kids. We used lanterns or battery lights and we set around and played games. No, not
video games, we played board games and card games and we talked! That's an
ancient thing that people used to do when they'd get together and sit
around looking at each other, talking, and telling stories. We shared the experience. I've heard my kids talk about that Christmas as being the best Christmas ever! Well I'm sure it was frustrating for my parents to be unable to provide all the meals they planned. It was a difficult time with the power being off and homebound, unable to go anywhere, Yet we enjoyed time together, kicking on the generator, making coffee,
warming up food in the microwave, then turning it off and just having a good time.
Sometimes the unexpected can turn out to be a blessing, and I think
that's kind of the way the first Christmas was. Nothing too noteworthy about the whole thing, but we look back and talk about it now. We put the silhouette shapes and Nativity depictions in our yards and decorate our homes. We play songs and celebrate. Our child act out the ancient stories on Sunday and we go through all of this every year. We sing songs that we only sing once a year and we stumble through the words and we survive somehow because it's Christmas, and we’re still remembering the reason for the observance. It's a Christmas to remember!
I pray this year will be that kind of Christmas. Not the bad stuff, but one to remember. So if you're kind of going through it tonight, just put your confidence in God. God knows the end from the beginning. He's got a time to bring everything together. He's got a way that things are all gonna work out and you might be surprised of what you learn in the most difficult moment of your life. Let those unexpected events turn out to be the big blessings that you've prayed for.
Lord, I thank you that you are with us.
You are Emmanuel. You are God with us!
Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Spirit. Lord,
for your promises, for the Word of God
that came and dwelt among us and we
beheld that glory as the glory of the only
begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth. Thank you, Lord, for Christmas,
Thank you, Lord, for your birth.
We just want to use it glorify you,
to magnify you, to share the goodness,
the hope, the things that you have offered us
in this generation. Lord, I thank you for it all,
for your Glory. In Jesus name!