The God Who Searches |12.24.23| The Word Became Flesh p4.
Pastor Drew Williams
Merry Christmas! I’m so happy to be here with you today, and I’ve got to say, you all look so good! I’ve never seen so many bows and sparkles and neck ties and colorful socks in my entire life!
And I’m sure that if we could see everyone joining us online right now, we’d see some Christmas best, some Christmas pajamas, and maybe even a Santa-hat or two!
And I know that looks aren’t everything, but it sure gets you into the holiday spirit to be part of a big get-together like this with so many well-dressed folks! The hard part of a big get-together like this is that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
And no one likes to feel lost or alone, so I’ve got a couple questions to help us see how we might relate with the people around us. And those of you online, I want you to participate as well by adding your voice to the comment section!
First, raise your hand if you had an advent calendar this month. Could’ve been the ones with little pieces of chocolate for each day, or stickers and stuff. Maybe the parents had a wine advent calendar?…?
My kids had multiple advent calendar activities this year, but the two new ones were opening a Christmas-themed book each day for story time, and the second was a Lego-themed one.
Okay, second question, maybe you’ll be surprised by who answers similarly to you: Raise your hand if you snuck a cookie recently even when you knew you shouldn’t have gotten the cookie. Be honest!
Maybe an easier thing to fess up to is what your favorite cookie is. If you are an adult and you have a kid near you, tap them on the shoulder and tell them what your favorite cookie is.
If you’re joining us online, type in the comments what your favorite Christmas cookie is right now.
Okay, now this last question is for everyone, kids, adults, everyone: raise your hand if you’ve ever been afraid of the dark. If you’ve ever felt your room was too dark, or if you’ve ever been walking in your house before the sun is up and felt like it was too dark, or if you’ve ever just felt uneasy with a dark corner.
We’ve all felt that at some point, right? Well, keep your eyes on the screen as we talk about this…
>>> PLAY VIDEO 1 <<<
I used to live in the city, which meant it never got dark. There were ALWAYS lights on somewhere. But now, we live out in the country, and it can get DARK, especially if the power goes out…(lights go out)
Hold on, let me grab a candle. (the sound of matches, one lights, illuminating the room)
There’s something about the dark that leaves us uneasy. It’s too easy to lose something in the dark. It’s too easy to not know where you’re going, or make a wrong turn.
But light? We’re drawn to the light. It reveals color and shape and helps us see and feel seen. And even the smallest light is more powerful than the dark and can fill a whole room with warm light.
The Bible talks about Jesus being the light that overcomes the darkness.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
The light that shines in the darkness. Jesus became flesh and lived among us, moved into our space, so that we could see…
[SLIDE 3] blank
Christmas is such a beautiful time because of all of the lights and the colors and the gifts and the generosity, but it’s easy to forget the point of why we celebrate. And even when there are well-meaning people who post things on social media like “don’t forget the reason for the season,” or “put Christ back in Christmas,” many people gloss over it, or they default to the way that Ricky Bobby used to pray, making sure to remember “8 pound, 6 ounce Baby Jesus.”
You might even have heard people refer to Christmas as Jesus’s birthday, and some families have a tradition of eating “Jesus Birthday Cake” on Christmas morning, which is usually some sort of cinnamon roll or strudel.
And while these are all good efforts to make sure that we don’t miss the more meaningful parts of this time of year, holding a birthday party for Jesus was NOT what his early followers were doing when they initiated the tradition of Christmas.
While the birth of a baby IS miraculous, that’s not actually the miracle that they were so excited about. No, in fact, the reason that Christmas is so incredible is because it shows us that God goes looking for what he cares for.
God goes looking.
And Jesus actually tells us this himself in a group of stories that are all about what God is like and what his plan is for humanity. So open your Bibles with me to Luke chapter 15, which can be found on p??? of your black, seat-back Bibles.
And while you’re finding it, we’re going to be going through the whole chapter reading a little bit at a time and chatting about it, so keep it open so you can follow along.
It starts with “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes (the religious people) were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them (he’s spending time with non-churchy people, why would he do that?)…So he told them this parable/story:”
He’s speaking to an AG community, so he talks about sheep, because herds of sheep were common in the area. So he says, “imagine you had a hundred sheep, and you lost one? Not a bad percentage, still got 99. Some shrewd business people might even say, “well, that’s the cost of doing business. It was a rough year, hopefully our number of sheep will go up next year.”
But God’s not like that! Jesus, says, no no no, you go out looking for the lost one. You find it!
And when you find it, you carry it like a child and rejoice. When you get home, you call together a party, because you found the lost sheep!
THAT’S what God is like. God goes looking, and when God finds the one he was looking for, it’s a party with rejoicing and celebration, because that one isn’t lost anymore. They aren’t alone any more.
But Jesus isn’t done yet, he tells ANOTHER example. Imagine a woman with ten silver coins. That’s a big deal. This is big money. Might be her whole life-savings. And Jesus says, if she loses one of the coins, don’t you think she’s going to light a candle to go searching? She’s going to clean up all the stuff in the way so that she can find the thing she lost.
And when she finds it, she’s going to call her friends and neighbors together and have a party! Maybe this seems an odd thing to do for someone who just found a lost coin, but it’s not odd for God at all! God goes looking. And when God finds the one he was looking for, it’s a party!
And maybe you’re starting to pick up on the theme that Jesus is trying to show us, but just in case, he’s going to tell yet another story, three in a row, so keep your eyes on the screen…
>>> PLAY VIDEO 2 <<<
The religious people, the ones who were supposedly following all the rules and telling other people how they should live so that God would love them, didn’t understand why Jesus would spend time with people who were clearly not following those religious rules. Didn’t he know that they were lost causes? Didn’t he want to stay away from their filthy language and bad examples?
But Jesus says, hmmm, maybe you’re misunderstanding what God is like. God doesn’t stay AWAY from the people who are far from him. God steps out into the cold to find them. God steps down into the dirt and muck of human life to rescue people. God’s actually like a concerned father…
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living.”
This young punk said, “I don’t want to wait for you to die, dad, so give me my inheritance now. And then when the dad surprisingly did it, the kid left home with his new-found wealth, and wasted it all.
And when times got tough, and he had wasted everything he had, the kid was in a bad spot. No job, no place to stay, no food. It was looking bad.
But he remembered that his dad ran a huge operation and had people working for him that were making a decent living. He figured maybe he could get a job from his dad, even though he had left on such awful terms. Who knows, maybe he could beg and plead and apologize. He knew his dad could never forgive him, and he definitely didn’t deserve to be treated like a son any more, but maybe he could get a job at the bottom and at least not starve to death.
And he sets off, practicing his speech. And when he was a long way off from his house, could barely see it in the distance, the father saw him.
Because, the father had been looking for him. Every day since he left. The father would stand outside and look in the direction the son had gone.
So he saw him in the distance, and he just started running. Who cares how ridiculous he looks? Who cares what the neighbors think? Who cares if he trips in these sandals that aren’t very good for running. He’s got to get to his son.
And he gets there and picks him up and squeezes him tight and kisses him and is crying, and the son is trying to say his speech to ask for an entry-level job, but the father cuts him off and talks to his servants and tells them to help his son.
Get him cleaned up, get him some new clothes, the best clothes I have in my closet. And give him the ring in my office to wear so that everyone knows he’s the boss’s son.
And get the best cow we’ve got, yep, the one we’ve been saving for the county fair, kill it now and cook it up and invite the whole town because MY SON WAS DEAD, BUT HE’S ALIVE AGAIN. HE WAS LOST AND IS NOW FOUND. And we HAVE to celebrate.
[SLIDE 11] blank
The miracle of Christmas isn’t just that Jesus came as a baby. The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus CAME. Came to search for and rescue people living in the darkness of doubt and shame and abuse and addiction and pride.
He came to search for and rescue people trapped under the weight of religious rules that didn’t have meaning anymore, people trapped under the weight of debt, people trapped in a life of drudgery and lies.
The reason we celebrate Christmas isn’t just to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, though that IS a good thing to celebrate. But we celebrate because it reminds us that God came looking for his people instead of waiting for them to go find him.
Jesus became flesh and lived among us, moved into our space, so that he could find us and put his arms around us and clean us off and help us not get dragged under the weight of this life that pulls you under and holds you down.
And then he invites you to join in with him and turn around and go searching for others who need help, who need hope.
THAT’S the message of Christmas: God loves you too much to let you drown under the weight of the world, so he came as a human to rescue you, to show you what life is really like, and to invite you into his rescue plan for all people.
So the next time you have to search for something, remember that’s how God searches for you.
The next time you have to look for batteries for that new toy, remember that’s how God searches for you.
The next time you have to get on your hands and knees and search under the couch for that tiny piece that went missing, remember that’s how God relentlessly looks for you.
The next time you’re looking out the window to watch your kids or grandkids, remember that’s how God keeps watch over you.
The next time you’re driving through fog, or peering in the endless black of night to see the light up ahead that tells you you’ve arrived at your destination, remember, that’s how God keeps his eyes straining to look for you.
Because to God, you are worth searching for.
To God, you are worth pursuing.
To God, you are worth running after, so that he can find you and keep you and rejoice over you and welcome you into the party as he reminds you that you are his child and you have a place with him. You have a purpose in his family. And he loves you too much to let you keep living apart from him and his ways.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. And let’s celebrate that God so loves the world that he sent his son to save us. Isn’t that good news?