For youth group this christmas, we are asking students to look at five different characters that were in close proximity to the birth of Jesus. Although the lesson was rather simple to make, the conclusions were a little more difficult to swallow.
The Distracted: Luke 2:1-3
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
In the time of Jesus’ birth, God was in the process of doing the most amazing thing in all of human history. At the same time, Bethlehem was jam packed with families for the census. While there were many people in the proximity of this historic work of god, everyone seemed to miss it.
Imagine a gigantic family reunion. Everyone was busy preparing their homes for guests, buying presents for loved ones, etc. And while everyone was doing their own thing, God shows up. This kind of feels like the mall at Christmas time.
This Christmas season, What are the things that are consuming your mind, are distracting you from seeing that god is actually alive and moving in our midst?
The Outcasts: Luke 2:8-12
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Christmas is a season of gift giving and parties. For some it is the the awful reminder that they are on the outs. The gifts everyone are buying are not for them, the parties everyone is getting dressed up for will not include them. The exact season where we should feel included only reminds us of our brokenness and isolation.
Even if this is you, the christmas story calls to the lowly, the broken, the outcasts. Of all the people that could have gotten a special invitation and announcement of Jesus’ birth, it was the shepherds, the dirt balls of their culture. They were seen and esteemed by God and invited to be the first on the scene when Jesus, emmanuelle, was born. Welcome!
The Rebel: Matthew 2:1-2, 16
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
King Herod knew exactly who Jesus was and what his birth meant. His reign would be challenged. A king who loved his position and power was not willing to surrender to a new ruler, so rather than concede, he chose to fight. Herod actively and violently pushed back against the lordship of Jesus.
Some us know exactly who Jesus is and know exactly the call that he has on our lives, the call to die to our selves and surrender. This call to concede our kingship is too much to bear and we find ourselves actively fighting against the things of God. Maybe it is time to pick up your cross, confess your sins, and submit to the King.
The Giver: Matthew 2:9-11
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The natural reaction of the human heart is to have gratitude and generosity toward those who bless us. When we are given an amazing gift, our heart grows towards that person and it is actually really easy to bless them back.
In Jesus Christ, God initiates the most amazing gift to all of humanity, and to you personally. As you receive that gift, the natural response is gratitude and generosity. The wise men gave their gifts, what gifts do you give or want to give back to Jesus?
The Watcher: Luke 2:25-28
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the rescue of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God
Simeon is someone go gets little attention during the Christmas season. But unlike the other characters around the nativity, Simeon was the only one who was actively watching and waiting for god to show up. And god richly blessed him, by allowing him to live until he could see the Messiah, the baby Jesus.
God actually is alive and at work in our world. Some of us are too distracted to notice. Some of us might be inclined react to something that god does. But it is a special gift to expect and long for God to move. It tunes our hearts toward his movements, and our faith is increased as we get to see the more subtle and continuous movement of God.
May our hearts’ be more like Simeon this advent season!