Pastor Dennis Bunio spoke about how the Christmas season can be a phenomenal blessing... especially when we are prepared for (and don’t miss) what Christ wants to give us. Pastor Dennis preached from Luke 2:1-7.
Note: We had issues with sound on Sunday. The first part of Pastor Dennis' sermon did not get recorded. However, we do have his text from the part that was missed. Please read the text below before you listen to the recording. Thanks!
Christmas is Coming. Are You Ready? Really?
Christmas Advent Series
Good morning. We are carrying on with our Advent series today. We heard last week that “Advent” refers to the arrival of something or someone – and of course we use these weeks running up to Christmas to anticipate the celebration of the arrival of Jesus Christ in the manger.
As we do that – and while we wait for Christmas to arrive, there is a lot that clamors for our attention. This is the time of year that we get to see a lot of things we don’t normally see throughout the winter season and beyond. There are all the Christmas decorations and lights. There are the seasonal shows on TV and the Christmas movies that always appear this time of year…various versions of “The Christmas Carol”, it’s a Wonderful Life, and so on. There are the seasonal events like parades and group banquets, Christmas-themed presentations, and so on.
I hope you have been able to take all that in. I actually think it’s great to see all this activity potentially directing us towards the Christmas event. However I do find that sometimes all these different things actually distract us and ironically make it harder for us to see what we really should be noticing. There is just so much to rush to and do here, our minds go off in a million different directions - and we can end up missing the most important things – and what’s realty there for us to see.
I was reminded of this once in a former church I pastored in. It was a smaller church and we had a small foyer. We had a system of open-ended church mailboxes there in the foyer. And because space was limited, each mailbox had a letter of the alphabet corresponding to the first letter of the family name. So if you had a letter for someone with a family name that started with “B”, you would put your letter in the box marked B along with all the other notes for families with a last name starting with “B”. And people would have to check periodically if there was anything in the box for them. You get the idea.
So one year, I remember checking the letter “B” Box regularly for mail for us and I noticed a coin in the box amongst all the letters. I didn’t think much of it. I had only briefly glanced at it before and assumed it was some kind of prize for a kid’s program, perhaps, or something like that. I knew it was not Canadian money because of the size and color but I just guessed that because there were more people with the last name starting with “B” in the church that it must have been left there for someone else. People were always leaving stuff in the boxes and people would forget to check their boxes and so stuff could sit there for long time. So I just noticed it and carried on.
This actually went on for several weeks as far as I can remember and as the weeks kept going by, I kept noticing the coin there in the box and just briefly wondered why it was not getting picked up. I thought maybe the person it was intended for had just missed it or hadn’t noticed, it or were maybe on vacation – which was fine.
But as the weeks wore on, it slowly started to annoy me. I started to think this person, whoever it is, should really be checking their mailbox. I mean clearly it had been left there for someone to pick it up. These boxes were always getting messy because people were not picking up their stuff. I started to think that maybe I needed to make a general announcement to encourage to pick up their stuff in the mailboxes. And then eventually, after several weeks, I thought maybe I need to just mention to the person, whoever it was for, that the coin was there.
So one week in December, as Christmas was approaching, I determined to do just that and I actually picked up the coin to look at it. And when I picked it up, the first thing I saw on the top of the coin was written....”For Our Pastor”. And on the back of the coin were written some words or encouragement. I figured it was probably left there sometime back in October.
Let me use that quick story to pose this question…is it at all possible for us gathered here today that we have passed by the manger for the millionth time, or considered the Christmas story, heard it again and again, but still really failed to see what God wants us to see there, failed to hear what God wants to tell us?
This Christmas – I feel led to ask – are you ready for Christmas – meaning – is your soul ready for what God wants to give you? My suggestion this morning is that maybe we all need to pause and take another close look at Bethlehem, and once there we may actually be surprised at what God has for us there.
God’s giving, after all, is of a much different and higher order. I think we can see that in the account of the birth of Christ. This morning I want to remind us how God met Joseph and Mary’s needs in particular because I thing considering what God provided for them can help us get ready, can help us be open and looking for God’s gifts for us this Christmas.
We are in Luke 2:1-7 today. Let’s start by reading verses 1-3.
In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
To begin with I would like us to appreciate the context or the setting that Mary and Joseph found themselves in at the time of Jesus’ birth. Politically, the situation was anything but a happy one for the expectant couple. They lived in a state of active oppression having been conquered and occupied by the Romans.
Specifically in the passage, Caesar Augustus is mentioned. He was Roman emperor from 27 B.C. (or a little earlier) until his death in A.D. 14. He was a grandnephew of Julius Caesar. As emperor, he served as the head of the foreign power that refused to tolerate active opposition and which demanded allegiance to Rome.
Augustus himself had a character that is a bit hard to analyze. During his climb to power he was ruthless. Once in power he did mellow a bit. He became, in fact, a wise administrator and famous organizer, especially of his military forces and of his bodyguard. By choosing his generals wisely, he won many battles. He showed superb tact in dealing with his subjects, and allowed even the conquered provinces to retain a considerable measure of home rule.
Nevertheless Augustus was not by any means a man of completely noble character. Although by an act of law he made adultery a crime, in his own personal life he divorced his first wife when she failed to produce a son. He married another woman and then forced her son to marry his daughter by his first wife.
(Now, you can click on the link below to listen to the rest of the sermon!)