Christmas is here. Again. It seems like I just got the lights down from last Christmas, and it’s time to put them back up. As a pastor, Christmas can be a challenging season. How do you tell the 2,000-year-old story differently than you told it last year? Or, for me, the last 38 years?
Let me be very honest. As a pastor and a believer in Jesus, it is a tremendous challenge to present the Advent story in the midst of a cultural holiday celebration that has little to do with the one who started the whole idea in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love the festive decor, music, gift giving, family gatherings, and meaningful worship services focused on keeping Christ in Christmas.
For Christmas 2018, our sermon series is titled Divine Interruptions. I’ve really enjoyed preparing the messages for this year and, in some ways, that is unusual. Christmas usually finds me on my knees more often.
Telling the great story of the birth of Christ year after year is somewhat difficult. What more is there to say? What more can we learn? Or what more must we learn? Haven’t we heard it all by now? Isn’t it more about a yearly wake-up call to focus on the real subject of Christmas? Isn’t it really about people choosing to live out what they claim to believe the other eleven months of the year?
It occurred to me the other day that divine interruptions really begin as divine invitations. From cover to cover, the Bible is filled with exciting and miraculous stories of God showing up and inviting us to something much higher, greater, more challenging, and even more frightening than we can imagine.
He asked Moses to lead the Israelites to the promised land. Moses was not very comfortable with the idea due to his inability to speak well. He also greatly desired not to have to complete this task. Elijah was asked to demonstrate the power of the one true God by calling him to bring fire to the altar, thus showing the idol-worshipping king who God really was. David was asked to face the giant. Mary was asked to bear God’s child even though she was a virgin. Joseph was called to be a man who would believe the whole story, deal with the perceptions of the community, and accept the call to be the earthly father of God.
From a human perspective, each of these events were, at first glance, divine disruptions—but really, they were divine invitations.
These were invitations to be part of something beyond human explanation or logic. They were invitations to go beyond the human and the predictable, to be all they could be during their lives on earth. I’m not talking about a youth-camp-style, emotional whim. I’m not talking about a passing feeling. I’m talking about something so humanly absurd even you will find it all hard to believe.
Take it from me. I know all about this kind of stuff. I have lived in a divine interruption for 37 years. It has been less about long-term planning, strategy, or vision casting and more about an openness to God’s leading when it felt more like a divine interruption.
In reality, whether it was continually making room for a growing church, building a school, opening a clinic, adding a new campus in another suburb, or starting a church inside the walls of a prison, these were all divine invitations to something beyond my own vision, strategy, or plans. It has meant a willingness to be comfortable with what we humans call ambiguity but what God calls faith—mixed with patience and a willingness to wait for his nudge for the next step.
My prayer for you this Christmas is that you might be open to that nudge you sense deep inside that scares you to death. It’s the nudge you hope God will never call you to pursue. Yet, it stirs within you.
I invite you to wrestle with the divine interruptions of life, many of which may very well be divine invitations to a journey of faith that will both stretch you and exhilarate you. I am still convinced that Mary, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, and David—to name only a few—are not the only ones on the planet who will be used by God to do something significant, even though it may seem absurd at first glance.
Perhaps my gift to you this Christmas is suggesting you actually have the courage to pray for some divine interruptions which become divine invitations and change the entire trajectory of your life.
What do you have to lose?
Not one thing.