A Baby Changes Everything, Matthew 1:21-23, Preached at Kendalia Community Church on December 4, 2016
Intro – I hope and pray you all had a good November and a blessed Thanksgiving. I am glad to be back among you and will enjoy the month of December with you. I am blessed to be among you believers!
The Season of Advent
Advent in the liturgical calendar starts four Sundays before Christmas. It marks the time of the year that believers are supposed to focus on the Christmas event. Kind of like Lent, which starts the day after Mardi Gras - Ash Wednesday - is supposed to focus on the meaning of Easter. This year, Advent started last week: so this is the second Sunday of Advent.
Don’t worry. Though I looked at the Scriptures for the Second Sunday, I’ve decided to veer off the liturgical schedule this week (like I usually do), but focus on the “Reason for the Season.” After all, there is a lot going on this time of year, and a lot secularly that might take us away from Jesus Christ and what the savior of the world means to us and the world.
What is the Reason for the Season?
To boil it all down, the Reason for the Season is to be in awe of, and celebrate, God coming into the world as a person – in Jesus Christ, and what that means for you and me. I will get into it more in this sermon, but the fact that Jesus came down, lived as a man, suffered and died for us, and was raised in the third day so that we might live eternally with the Father, is the big picture. The “Reason for this season” is that God decided to take a piece or portion of Himself, create a human divine child and put Him down in our midst, and be in relationship with us is a part of that story.
But first, I’ve got my own story to tell you.
Will McGowan’s story
It is a story about a man who was from a broken home. The mom, Ms. Thomas, was a young woman that became pregnant at sixteen and didn’t marry. She married later to Ned Thomas, and the marriage lasted long enough to have three other children – two girls and a boy – but it ended in divorce.
Being the older son, Willie became the surrogate father, but wished he had a Dad to walk with him. For a time, Ned Thomas – the other kids Dad - would pay attention to him but not as much as he would the other children because they were his own. Then Ned went away and left Will alone with his mom as the only father the three kids had in the house. Will’s biological father was around – sometimes – but only enough to make promises he wouldn’t keep or talk about gifts he would never bring. And Ned would come around from time to time, but never really was HIS dad.
But being a surrogate father taught Will that he would be a good father, better than he had (x2). And he wanted to be a father and have HIS kids have the things he never did. Do it right, because he’d had it done wrong, and knew it could be another way. Will was a Christian man, one who tried to live how God would want him to live. He attended church, made music and dedicated it to God, he even has one Gospel CD out and is working on another! But children were never a part of it.
He went through one marriage, and he and his wife could not have children, even though they tried everything. The ended up divorcing, and he got married again, and they tried to have a baby. This time, his wife Julie got pregnant three times, but her pregnancies ended the same way – with a child that didn’t come into the world! Though he was a step-father now, and tried his best to raise four kids that were older, he wanted to have a baby and raise it God’s way. Only he was 50, and his wife was in her 40’s and they were not getting any younger!
Can you feel the pain that Will and Julie went through! Will, having the heartache over not having a father to be with as a youngster...the pain of going through life knowing you could be a good Dad (with God’s blessing) and not being able to give birth to a child? Julie, the pain of having unborn babies three different times and the pain of not bringing them into the world? Though I believe the unborn babies will be in heaven when he gets there, to not have a baby born and put him and his wife through the trials has to hurt exponentially...
Then, at 50, Will’s wife Julie gets pregnant again....this time with twins. Could it be two other ones that dies in the womb? And then, one baby does die in the womb...another failed pregnancy...another child that doesn’t get to enter the world...another painful experience for the parents. But somehow – by God’s grace - the twin survived. With all the factors going against her and the parents, they and their girl made it - she was born this week on December 1!
Yes, Will and Julie McGowan are the proud parents of Jasmine Nicole McGowan! The relationship that he longed for is here, even after 30 years of praying! He is here today as my brother (from another mother) and friend (Introduce Will).
God’s Story in the Old Testament
A relationship story is what I’m talking about. Only it’s God’s relationship with creation, and more specifically, humanity. You see, God created us, gave us (in my opinion) free will – so we would love Him - and then watched as we rebelled and turned away from Him again and again. There are notable people of faith in the Old Testament, but only a few. We are all sinners because of Eden, and that is just something a Holy God will not come near. The God that made creation for us, then put us in the Garden of Eden to have a relationship with us, is distanced by sin that we caused!
So He destroyed much of humankind with the flood and only keeps a remnant of it (Noah’s family). Then, with Abraham, God’s promises He will maker Abraham’s seed live forever and makes a covenant with Abraham – only humans again and again trip up. So God takes Jacob, renames him Israel (not because Jacob was good), makes another covenant, and has a choice people for a time, the Israelites. But the Israelites sinned and so God let Egypt enslave them for 400 years. Then, Moses led them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, but most of the Israelites wanted anything but what God had in store for them.
They got to the Promised Land anyway, and were so stubborn and hard-headed that God agreed to give them a king. God likes King David so much that God made a covenant with King David, but generally the kings were worldly or at best sinful, and God had to do it another way to have relationship with His people.
And that brings us to the New Testament. God sent Jesus down to have a relationship with humankind (through the Holy Spirit), and bring the kingdom of God to us – all of us! God sent Jesus to have a father-child relationship with humankind forever by entering the kingdom of God!
Which brings us to Mary and Joseph...
Mary and Joseph
Joseph was from King David’s family-line, and we know that he was righteous, compassionate, and probably a carpenter, but not much else. His betrothed, Mary, was a cousin of Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mom, and faithful to God. She was, in Jewish tradition of the day, going to marry Joseph, but didn’t have personal relations until they were married, which was later in time.
The fact is Mary was pregnant, which was odd because she was betrothed to Joseph but a virgin until they were married. That presented Joseph with a problem, because tradition said that Mary was to be stoned for pseudo-adultery, and at least they had to call of the wedding if he were not going to follow the Mosaic law.
Illustration: Faith Hill’s A Baby Changes Everything.
I don’t know if you are Country and Western Music fans. If you are, that you know about Faith Hill and her husband, Tim McGraw. They have been awesome as a couple in the public eye. Faith is almost too good to be real. Beautiful, Christian, sweet, and a great voice. So it’s appropriate that she sings a Christmas tune called A Baby Changes Everything. Only a pure person like faith could take on Mary’s persona and make it believable!
The Song was written by Craig Wiseman, who in 2009 was named Songwriter of the Decade, awarded by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. He wrote songs like The Good Stuff (Kenny Chesney) and Live Like You Were Dying (Tim McGraw).
The first two verses go like this:
Teenage girl, much too young
Unprepared for what's to come
A baby changes everything
Not a ring on her hand
All her dreams and all her plans
A baby changes everything
Mary had what seems like a tough road ahead.
It is there that we pick up the Gospel of Matthew.
There a four Gospels written by the Apostle Matthew; John Mark (who gives us most likely Peter’s perspective); Luke the physician; and the Fourth Gospel, probably written by the Apostle John. They are four different accounts, telling the same story from a slightly different viewpoint. We are in Matthew, which is a theological Gospel. It is not history and not sociology, though you can get a lot of information about both in Jewish society and early Christianity. It is, rather, about God’s saving act in Christ.
Matthew starts his gospel by giving Jesus’ genealogy and the beginning of Jesus’ birth story. He is careful to name Jesus in the line of David (because he thinks Jesus was the Messiah) and telling the story of a wondrous birth, started by God. Joseph is confused, and the angel appears to him in a dream to explain that the Holy Spirit caused Mary to be pregnant, and tell Joseph what to do now.
Now to the Scripture of the Day: Matthew 1:21-23.
Matthew 1:21-23 (NSRV) New Revised Standard Version
21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”
1:21 God had an infinite numbers of things or events He could do to get a relationship with us. In fact, He tried several – the Garden of Eden, the Flood, a chosen people – and none of them worked from a human’s perspective. But God made a part of Him a man to walk amongst us – and brought Him in as a child in chaos, to build a bridge to God. You see, God knew that a child was weak, innocent, and small; the child needs humans watching over him or her. What better way to start a relationship than that!
1:22 A unwanted and illegitimate child is Jesus, but God sends an angel to tell Joseph, and to assure him that this child is coming from YHWH, Israel’s God! God, the Creator, sovereign, and the prophet that Joseph knew about, Isaiah, had foretold this!
1:23 And finally, it all comes together for Joseph (and, I hope, us). The child was a part of God, and would be named Emmanuel, as the prophet spoke centuries before. “God with us” means “relationship” that God would have with us – who believe – forever!
The Kingdom of God
And with that, the Kingdom of God was here 2000 years ago, and is here now. The relationship that God created and Jesus ushered in is real and there for you. I hope you realize it, have accepted Jesus into your heart, and live in that Kingdom. If not, come to me or another believer and we will explore it together! Because that feeling that Will had and is experiencing now for the first time with Jamison Nicole, is the feeling the God wants to have with every one of His children.
The kingdom of God is wonderful and will last forever because of one illegitimate, unwanted child that changed the world! Listen to Isaiah 9:6-7:
Isaiah 9:6-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Bring it to the Congregation
I don’t know where you are his season. It is a time of a great celebration and painful misery.
Maybe you are like Will and Julie McGowan, something wonderful has happened and the birth of Jesus makes it even more special. Did you have a child come into your family? Have someone come home from deployment or a long time on the road? Had a serious medical condition that has gone away or cancer that has gone into remission? Did you have a member of your family give their life to Christ? Maybe an advancement in your job that brings more money and happiness because of it? If so, I celebrate that with you, and charge you to tell the world about the real reason for this season – the Christ child!
But some of you have fallen on hard times...Even in the Bible, we see that a person of faith does not always have mountains to shout from, but valleys to drudge through. Maybe you had a child that was coming into the world have something dreadful happen to he or she and/or their mom...maybe you had someone go away for a time...maybe you have family problems...maybe you had someone so dear taken from you this time last year...maybe you found out that you or someone close to you is dying and there is nothing you can do about it...maybe you have financial problems and it seems there’s no way out!
Whatever it is, there is hope! There is a relationship that brings peace – even in the tough times – because of a little child that was brought into this world in chaos, just like you are feeling now. Won’t you come and see if that relationship that I’m talking about - with a little child that grew to be Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God – can bring peace to you! Won’t you see if a church full of God’s children – the body of Christ – can come along, walk beside you, and get you through the tough times?
I can tell you that all it takes is a baby named Jesus...and a relationship with the creator of us, God!
With all the glit and glitter that comes around during Christmas, with all the stuff that gets bought, with all the focus on Winter Holiday, on diversity, on Santa, on the world, do we even miss having the season about the reason – Jesus - and what God did for the world through Him?
I think that if the reason for the season for the world isn’t Jesus, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Yes, we are the body of Christ in this world. We have a story to tell about our lives and how they are different with Jesus in our hearts. We have the Holy Spirit inside us that jumps for joy at this time of the year, just like John the Baptist jumped in Elizabeth’s womb, 2,000 years ago, when He saw the baby that Mary was carrying!
We have a story to tell, and it’s not about us. It’s about the illegitimate, unwanted baby (by the world’s standards) that changed the world and changed our lives.
Will and Julie McGowan are with their baby, Jasmine Nicole McGowan, and in awe of her – her smell, her smile, her prettiness, her feel. They have relationship like Will’s never had before, and God is waiting to have that relationship with you, or celebrating that relationship even now during this advent season.
Don’t you want to celebrate it – sign, dance, or shout it from the rooftops – too? Have joy in your heart and on your face because of it? Be loved and love others because God loved you!
Yes, A Baby Changes Everything! In the final verse of the song is close to my heart – and I hope you feel the same way. It goes like this:
My whole life has turned around
I was lost but now I'm found
A baby changes everything, yeah
A baby changes everything
Let us pray.