Monday, December 13, 2021

         We often find God at work in unlikely places.  And the Christmas story makes this truth abundantly clear to us.  God was at work in an ordinary young woman like Mary and a simple carpenter like Joseph.  There was nothing especially striking or noteworthy about either one.  Matthew 2:6 says, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”  The location of Jesus’ birth was a nondescript place—an out of the way town or what we might call a wide place in the road.  But from this little-regarded place would come the King of kings and the long-awaited Savior of the world.  Bethlehem’s enduring lesson is to look for God in unlikely, surprising and even simple places. 
            In the first century, all eyes were probably on cities like Rome and Jerusalem.  The power-brokers and movers of the day were ensconced in those major cities.  But God was at work in small places like Nazareth and Bethlehem.  We are reminded of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 1:27, “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 very things and places we might be humanly tempted to write off or dismiss could well be where God is doing His work.  At Christmas, God could well speak to you through a card from someone or a well-appointed conversation.  A Christmas carol or hymn might touch your spirit in a way that is new and fresh.  
            Remember God chose a terrorist named Saul to become the Church’s first and finest global missionary.  Saul became Paul and authored much of the New Testament.  Paul’s change and commitment to the gospel would have been inconceivable to most people in Israel in the middle of the first century.  Yet God surprised everyone.  And He surprises us still today.  God got the exodus started by speaking to a murderer named Moses from a bush that caught fire but was not consumed.  God spared Jonah’s life by enabling a large fish to swallow him.  And lest we forget, a tax collector named Matthew wrote a gospel.  A poll conducted in the first century would have likely found that practically everyone detested tax collectors.  Yet, the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write His gospel and today it stands as the first book of the New Testament.
            If you look for the Lord in these remaining days of Advent, I suspect you will His hand and heart in some unlikely places.  He could be reconciling you with someone.  He could be showing you some sinful and long-neglected places in your life.  He could be opening your eyes to the profound truth and beauty that we find in values like faith, trust, honor, friendship, patience and forgiveness.  We must always remember that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  But life is about giving up our ways and thoughts for His.  While people tend to look at the outside and external things of life, God looks at the heart.  I invite you to take a good look at the Advent wreathe in our sanctuary.  Each candle represents a value that we associate with Christmas—love, joy, hope and peace.  The flames flicker reminding us that these values are everlasting—renewed and reborn in us each Advent season.  God rekindles these values in the lives of those who earnestly seek Him.
            Yes, God remains at work today in the ordinary, simple and common places of
life.  We find Him working to redeem, renew, remake and recast.  Every mountain is made low and every valley is filled in.  Pathways are made straight.  May the Lord reveal Himself and His ways to you today and in the events of this week.  Have a great Monday!  Remember you can share our worship with others at  Continue to pray for those in the Midwest who are suffering and struggling with the loss of so much life and property caused by the terrible tornadoes over the weekend.  We anticipate soon selecting a date to gather up a relief team to go help.  And remember to stay faithful in your giving, tithes and offerings as we seek to end the year in a strong way.  Be sure to bring your angels and donated food back to the church no later than this Wednesday.   

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