Friday, December 15, 2017

Collision, Week 1 - God Uses the Obscure

It’s four weeks until Christmas. And even though we don’t have snow to tell us that it’s Christmas time, everywhere you go, Christmas is in full swing. The stores are playing Christmas music. The bell ringers are out. I went into the Walmart in Lake Havasu and they had three different sections of Christmas stuff. And with the Christmas season being everywhere, it can bring up fond memories of the past. My favorite memory is a gift I was given when I was either 5 or 6 years old. We had recently moved to a little rural town called Comanche, in the Sierra foothills. Most of my life growing up, I would say we were on the southside of the middle class. We never had an abundance of money, but my parents always seemed to provide more than what we deserved for Christmas. So many times I remember my mom working at a department store for the sole reason as to get the discount so that she could buy us presents.
This particular Christmas I’m sure I received several great gifts, but only one has stayed with me all these years. In fact, out of all the gifts I have ever received, I have only kept one. And that’s my velveteen rabbit, to which I gave the name Christmas. It is something so small, so obscure, and probably so cheap, that my parents thought it would be a simple present discarded in the years to come. But for me it has been something that has stuck with me, and is now a reminder of the love and sacrifice my parents have shown me throughout my life.

So often it’s the obscure things that tend to have the greatest impacts in the world. As we our a church goes forward towards Christmas day, I have felt God leading us to this idea of Collision. A collision is a meeting of two or more things that has repercussions. And after the collision happens nothing is the same again.
And that is exactly what Christmas is, a collision of heaven meeting earth. A meeting that has left both changed. For the next four weeks we’re going to look at the ramifications of the Christmas story for our world. How does this collision of heaven and earth reverberate throughout the world, and impact us today?
Each week we’re going to tackle one part of the Christmas story and ask the question, how does this collision of the Christmas story, effect you and me as we sit in Quartzsite almost 2,000 years removed from the impact?

So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to start off in Luke chapter 1 verse 26. Now we’ll be skipping around, and we’re not going to hit everything that is contained in the Christmas story. Instead, we’re going to look at four different ramifications that come from four different parts of the collision of Christmas. So let’s begin by reading in Luke chapter 1, verse 26.

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

If you have ever watched a recent blockbuster or superhero movie, you’ll know that there is a lot of action. A lot of things exploding, a lot of noise, and a lot of adrenaline pumping. And I love it, but those action scenes don’t necessarily impact us as do the quite scenes. You know those scenes that buffer the action. The scenes that bring the world shattering moments to a pause, with the conversations of the characters, and how they are dealing with all that is going on around them. 
I recently went and saw the Justice League movie, and there’s a quiet scene right before a big battle, where the character Flash looks at Batman and lays out his fears. He says, “I’m glad that you are all ready for battle, but I have never battled, I just push people and run away.” Batman responds with, “Save one, and you’ll know what to do after that.”
It’s an quite moment that gives strength to a character and shows the leadership of another. And at this moment in the Christmas collision we witness a small quiet moment before the impact.

God’s messenger Gabriel meets a young girl to tell her of the coming collision. We see nothing fancy, nothing over the top; instead, all we see is a quiet moment between two individuals. 
Gabriel starts off with the greeting, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

And you would think that the presence of an angel would send this young girl running, but instead of being taken aback by the angel’s presence, it’s his words that trouble her. Have you ever noticed that? It’s not the angelic being that stands before her that agitates her, but his greeting.
And I have to wonder, why is that? I know in my own life when one of my kids comes up to me and says, daddy I love, my first thought is, what do you want from me? What are you scheming. Is that what Mary’s thinking, okay what do you want? It’s almost like she’s skeptical. And I can see why should would be. I mean, from what little we know of her, she’s not much on the scale of someone who is desirable.
I mean think about it. Think about the type of person she is, both physically, and socially. She’s young, so she’s got that going for her. But she’s engage, so she’s off the market. But it’s the who that she is engaged to that gives us a little more insight into more of who she is. 
Now, I’m going to follow a trail of logic, that at the very least, makes sense to me. The man she is going to marry is a carpenter. A few weeks ago we talked about what a carpenter was during this type period. Even though by today’s standards, you could be very well off as a carpenter, most, at this time were not. Carpentry wasn’t a intellectual field. It was hands one, so education wasn’t necessarily needed. And because it was a job that dealt with it’s hands, and not brains, it wasn’t very high on the social scale. 
Now because carpentry wasn’t very high on the social scale, that would then limit a carpenter’s options when it came to courting the ladies. So Mary’s fiancé would have to be seek out an equal or lower social status to marry, because anyone of a higher status wouldn’t allow their daughter to marry lower. So May must be of lower social status. Okay that works. But then there’s something a little bit more about Mary.
I’m thinking that she wasn’t exceptionally pretty. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she was pretty, in her own way. And I’m not trying to make this about her appearance, but think about it, if she was exceptionally beautiful then her parents could have sought a suitor from a higher social class. Now, this might seem barbaric by today’s standards, but it was a way for a father to get a better life for his daughter. Through a girl’s beauty, parents could make sure she was more well off than they were. But it doesn’t seem like Mary moved that far up the social latter. So even though she may be pretty, it probably wasn’t exceptionally pretty, but rather average at the most.

So here’s probably an average looking girl, of lower social class, and already engaged, being addressed with this greeting of being called highly favored. But her reaction is exactly what you would think, What is favorable about me? Instead of being taken aback with the angel, she is more taken aback that she is favored, when nothing about her seems to warrant favorability. 
And even though Gabriel reveals that Mary’s child will be the Savior of the world, she is still skeptical. She answers Gabriel’s grand picture of the Messiah with, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Now I don’t think this is skepticism of what Gabriel is saying, and it’s not skepticism of what God can do, but rather it is skepticism on her own role within the plan. It’s almost as if she is asking, “How can God use some like me to do all the great things you are saying. I’m not socially relevant. I’m not physically desirable. Heck, I’m not even married yet. How can God use a person like me?”

And Gabriel’s response is very cutting to this. He explains three things: First, he answers her question of the how, it’s through the Holy Spirit. But then he explains that Mary’s cousin Elisabeth has been given a child even though she is past her childbearing years. And then Gabriel adds one more thing to it. He says, “For no word from God will ever fail.”

In that last sentence, Gabriel breaks through Mary’s skepticism of herself. Because it’s not about her, but what God can do through her. Gabriel never addresses her insecurities, but rather moves past them, and brings Mary into the reality of how God sees her. God sees Mary, not as the average looking, social peasant, little girl that she sees herself as. God sees Mary as he created her to be, the mother that would bring the Savior into the world. And all that matters is that she trust the God who sees her as he created her to be.

And we see a ramifications of heaven colliding with earth. It is so easy for us to see ourselves as the obscurity that this world has us. Whether it’s because of social, economic, material, or other factors. We can easily feel like we are unusable and undesirable. But the collision of heaven meeting earth at Christmas, has nothing to do with how we or how this world views us. It has everything to do with God. It wasn’t Mary who made God pick her, God found favor with Mary, extending his grace on her, because he desired it.

This is why Paul, in 1st Corinthians 1:27, says, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

The collision of Mary meeting Gabriel, was that Mary realized that though she was insignificant to the world around her, she was significant to God. And in that moment, in that collision, she realized for the fist time, that God could use one such as her. Not only did she realize that she could be used by God, but she accept that he would use her. And her response is telling. She says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

She wasn’t just accepting a service for God, she was outing herself into a very compromising position. A position she understood. She understood that she might lose her engagement. She understood she would be ostracized from society. She understood that what God was asking of her would be social and economic suicide. And she still accepted it. And she accepted with this world servant, which has the idea as the word slave. She was saying, I will be used by God as his slave. He will direct me and use me in the way he sees fit. 

She realized and accepted that God could use one such as her, and it was based on who he was, and not of what she thought of herself.

This collision reverberates to today. I’m sure that each of us has had points in our lives where we could agree with Mary’s skepticism of ourselves. Where we have said, how could God love, how could God use, why would God care for one such as I? 
But the collision of heaven and earth says, it’s not about who you or the world sees yourself as, but rather how God sees you. And at your weakest, it’s there that God can do great things.

God can use the obscure to impact the world around us. He used the obscure Mary to bring about the Savior of the world. He has used an obscure Christmas stuffed animal to teach me about sacrifice and love. He can use you today in ways, only he understands.

So here’s my challenge for you today, and it’s going take a little more financial effort on your part than usual. I challenge you to make a tag that says, Jesus loves you and wants to use you, then buy one stuffed animal. Next, tie that tag onto that animal, and give it away to someone. It can be an adult, or a child. It can be a neighbor, a family member, or a friend. But give it to someone that looks as if the world tells them they’re not worth it, and let them know that they are. Relay the story of Mary to them. The story of how God used one obscure girl to collide heaven and earth.

Now may the God who initiates the collision of heaven meeting earth, use you to collide with someone else. That they may know that this God does exist and loves them. Amen.

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