Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday Sermon Notes 12.14.08

What will you do different this Christmas?
People tend to get into a rut with their lives, getting into habits and comfortable ways of doing things, understanding things. Yet they want different results. They want their Christmas' to be different, but they don't do anything different when it comes to reading and understanding the Christmas story, and they rarely do anything different about their schedules or attitudes when it comes to the Christmas season.

Read the text carefully - do something different and read it slowly, don't assume you understand what you read, ask some questions about the text...
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

Luke 2v1-7 (The Message)

Note that the very first Christmas was full of hardships. As you read through the text, what were some of the hardships you were able to identify?
* the hardship of being under the harsh rule of Caesar Augustus (and his cruel and paranoid puppet-king Herod the Great)
* the hardship of registering for the census (which was used for oppressive taxation and military conscription purposes)
* the hardship of trusting Mary's account of why she is pregnant
* the hardship of accepting Mary as his own - overcoming the objections of his family (and maybe hers?)
* the hardship of finding a welcoming place to stay in Bethlehem
* the hardship of delivering the baby in such a unwelcoming conditions
* the hardship of avoiding being noticed by King Herod's henchman (Joseph being of the famous line of King David...)
* the hardship of facing the future alone and rejected

As hard as the times were for Joseph and Mary, they made some good and right decisions. Mary kept her cool when no one believed her. Joseph trusted Mary and accepted her, protected her, cared for her. Joseph and Mary obeyed the command to register for the census despite potential risk to their well-being. Joseph and Mary sought to stay obedient to the commands the LORD had given to them.

Like Joseph and Mary, you likely have your own hardships you are going through this Christmas season. (Maybe you don't, but odds are there is somebody you care about that is going through a hard time...). What are some of the hardships you are going through?
* relational hardships?
* financial hardships?
* workplace hardships?
* school hardships?
* emotional hardships like depression?
* spiritual hardships like loneliness?
* mental hardships like boredom?
* etc...

In light of the specific hardships you are going through...what are some good and right decisions you know you ought to make - even though it is really hard to do so?
* forgiveness?
* reconciliation?
* learning to listen?
* admitting you were wrong?
* trading selfishness for love?
* cutting up the credit card?
* making immediate actions steps to eliminate your out of control debt?
* be a friend?
* work hard (while avoiding all cheating, lying, slacking, and conniving..)?

Odds are you know what the right thing to do is in the midst of the just need some encouragement to do the right thing. Joseph and Mary were alone, rejected, and yet they chose the right thing. Part of the stems from their long-term work of building character, they had made it a habit of choosing wisely in the past when it was easy. The habit of choosing rightly in the easy times makes it possible for you to choose wisely in the hard times.

This Christmas is a time for you to reconsider your habits and attitudes - and take action to do something different.
Make it a point to fix what is broken, to repair what is cracked.
The windshield of my Chevy Malibu has a long, ragged crack running alongside the passenger side. It started off from a small pebble smashing a small chunk out of the windshield, but month by month, left untended, it cracked up the window. Now it sits there as a constant reminder of what happens when you leave cracks untended. Now it will be more expensive and more work to restore the window. But it can be restored.

Whether it is your heart or your husband's, whether is your soul or your son's, whatever is cracked can be restored - that is what God is doing in this world. But to restore it, one must admit there is a crack, and one must admit one's responsiblity for the crack, and then one must actually be willing and desiring to restore the crack and remove it. I don't mind the crack in my windshield, so I don't plan on fixing it anytime soon. But it really annoys my wife and any other passenger who has to stare through the crack. I don't care enough about my passengers to actually fix the crack. I'm not bragging, just being honest.

This Christmas, do something different...restore what is cracked.

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