3rd Sunday of Advent Room At The Inn Series
Years ago a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ rest room carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd.
This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run?
When calmness finally settled in he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man, breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby?
In a way, each of us, is in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” And then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. (1)
And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this baby?” But an even deeper question is, just “Who is this baby?”
If we look at Scripture we find all kinds of titles and names for this baby we hold in our arms. Emmanuel, “God with us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus.
In the Scripture for today’s message, Mary and Joseph have taken Jesus to the Temple for the ritual purification and circumcision and they meet a devout man by the name of Simeon. Here’s how that encounter goes. Luke 2:22-33
Amazing. Simeon says to God, “my eyes have seen your salvation.”And remember what the Angels told the Shepherds? “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NRSV). But that was 2000 years ago. Do we still need a Savior? Is there still Room For A Savior in our world today? Do we even NEED a Savior anymore?
The Biblical answer is ABSOLUTELY we still need a Savior.
I. WE GET IT WRONG:
A. Where Does God Fit In?
I just read a story about a schoolteacher in England supervised the construction of a manger scene in a corner of her classroom by her students. The students were excited and enthusiastic as they set up the little barn and covered the floor with real straw and then arranged all the figures of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the Wise Men and all the animals. The students had all the characters facing the little crib in which the tiny Infant Jesus lay.
One little boy just couldn’t get enough. He was absolutely enthralled. He kept returning to it, and each time stood there completely engrossed but wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The teacher noticed him and asked, “Is anything wrong? Do you have a question? What would you like to know?”
With his eyes still glued to the tiny manger scene, the boy said slowly, “What I’d like to know is, it’s so small, how does God fit in?” (2)
God fits in because, no matter how hard we try. No matter how hard we work. No matter what our intentions in life, somehow, we just get it wrong.
Years ago I read about a pastor who was invited to preach at a nearby country church he had never been to before. As he set out he was uncertain which road to take since most rural roads aren’t clearly marked and the directions he’d been given left something to be desired. He stopped to ask directions along the way. The person he asked tried, but mistakenly steered him down the wrong road.
The morning was pleasant and although the road seemed a little longer than the pastor had expected, he cheerfully continued on his way. Finally he arrived at a little white country church just as the Sunday School lesson was concluding.
The pastor entered the church and greeted some of the people as he made his way to the pulpit. That morning he delivered a strong and inspiring sermon. People in the congregation weren’t quite sure what to think, but they listened attentively. When the worship service concluded, the pastor descended from the pulpit, shook hands with the people, said his goodbyes and headed toward home.
Meanwhile, there was another small church a few miles away, filled with people waiting and wondering what could possibly have happened to the pastor who was scheduled to preach for them. Our hero never even suspected that he’d preached at the wrong church that morning. (3)
B. Let’s face it. As we look at the world around us, we have to admit that things seem out of kilter. Something’s wrong. Something is broken. People and relationships are broken.
Despite our efforts since September 11th, we still haven’t shut down Al Queada. We still haven’t found Bin Laden. We are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Violent crime still plagues our streets. The war on drugs seems to have had little effect. The poverty level continues to rise. Slavery and the trafficking of human beings is higher today than it ever has been in history. Around the world, children continue to die of starvation, malaria, aids, cholera, measles in record numbers because there is not enough money, medicine or medical people to help.
Greed still seems to be the number one disease of the soul.
Something is deeply broken. We Get It Wrong and we definitely need a Savior. We need someone to save us from ourselves. Someone who can make it right. Someone who can help us start over.
II. ONLY GOD CAN MAKE IT RIGHT:
A. The truth is: We Get It Wrong and Only God Can Make It Right.
The reason that Only God Can Make It Right is because our condition is not so much an action condition, not so much a doing the right thing condition; we suffer from a heart condition, a soul condition. And there is only one prescription.
There are a lot of people who will tell you otherwise. They’ve come up with all sorts of home remedies and alternative medicines. Some of them even seem to help alleviate the symptoms. But many of them are nothing more than placebos; false medicines for the real problem, the real disease. But the truth of this season is that there is only one cure for the heart condition we suffer and that’s this tiny baby born in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
The truth is We’re Broken. We Get It Wrong. And Only God Can Make It Right. The only prescription which works on this heart condition of ours is this Child thrust into our arms by God. This child whom Simeon saw and declared, “Master, . . . my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Simeon, of course, was talking about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us.
B. An old piano man ran his fingers up and down the keys of a run-down instrument. He sang a few sad notes to himself. It was Christmas Eve and old Amos was feeling pretty sad. He was all alone, with nowhere to go. He once had a wife and a beautiful little girl but somehow they’d slipped out of his life.
While walking through the streets of downtown he saw a little girl, dressed in clean but ragged clothes. She was standing in front of a department store window. The little girl was looking at a display of the Christmas story. The decorators had spared no expense in creating the scene – a marble pillared inn, an immaculate manger made of finished hardwoods, and a stable of solid polished mahogany.
As the girl stood and stared at the display, a security guard came out and chased her away. The little girl began to cry. Old Amos came over to her.
“I just wanted to see the baby,” the girl kept repeating over and over again.
“That’s not the way they looked anyway,” Amos said. “Let me show you how it really was.”
In another section of the city Amos gathered some of his down on their luck and homeless friends. Together they recreated the Christmas story for the little girl.
“When the baby Jesus was born,” said Amos, “it wasn’t in front of a great big inn with marble columns. And the crib wasn’t sitting under a polished mahogany stable. It was in front of a crumbling-down hotel, and the stable wasn’t much different from this old streaky awning hanging over the sidewalk.”
The little girl watched in awe as Amos and his friends acted out the entire Christmas drama right there on the sidewalk. So, did others who stopped to watch.
When the impromptu Christmas production was over, Amos came to the little girl and whispered, “Angel, the Baby Jesus is one of us. Don’t you ever let anybody make you feel different. He walked the same kind of road we walk. From now on wherever you go, you just remember he’s walking right there with you, and there ain’t nothing the two of you can’t handle.” (4)
Amos and his friends made the Christmas story alive for that little girl. And the message she heard is the Message of Christmas. “God IS with us!” Through this child, Jesus, “God is with us.” We are not alone. And through this Child Jesus, God Can and Will Make It Right. When We Get It Wrong, God Will Make It Right. That’s the promise. And that’s the prescription.
And personally, I think it’s a medicine which is easy to swallow.
You see, that’s how God fits in. God asks us to hold this baby in our arms to protect and shelter and nurture and care for. And the whole time we are holding this baby, this baby is holding us. For He IS the Salvation of the world. He IS Emmanuel, God with us.
The Scottish preacher John McNeill told that during his childhood he had to walk a long distance home every evening, and his route led through a forest with a large ravine. Reports said that wild animals and gangs of robbers were often seen in that area. Great fear would seize his heart as he made his way past the spooky looking trees.
He recalled, “One night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowly and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a second call. This time I could hear the voice saying, ‘John, is that you?’ It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me.” (5)
God knows how frightening and uncertain this world of ours can be. God knows the struggles we have trying to get it right and always seeming to get it wrong. God knows the wild and animals and gangs of robbers who linger in the dark. God knows how broken we are.
That’s why every Christmas, God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” And then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. For in this child, God is able to expel our fears, eliminate our worries and help us start over. We Are Broken. We Get It Wrong but God Can Make It Right. Only God Can Make It Right through this child. For this child we hold in our arms, this child who is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger is our Savior who changes our heart and heals our heart condition.
Watch this: Willie’s Big Christmas Revelation.
We Are Broken. We Get It Wrong but God Can Make It Right. God loves you unconditionally. God simply wants to heal your heart condition. And all you really have to do is “Hold the baby.”
Will you hold God’s baby in your heart? Will you let this child Make It Right?
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
2. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
3. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
4. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
5. Alan Carr, Fear Not