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Such a Strange Way to Save the World
Scripture: Luke 1:14; Matthew 1:18; Luke 2:34; 1 Ti...
Track 51 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 22 minutes, 52 seconds.
Jesus came to redeem the people for God

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, December 21, 2003
"Such a Strange Way to Save the World. . ."
(Jesus came to redeem people for God)
C. Sackett

The chorus of the song that is sung from the perspective of Joseph, father of Jesus. Why me? I'm just a simple man of trade. Why him, with all the rulers in the world? Why here, inside this stable filled with hay? Why her, she's just an ordinary girl? Now, I'm not one to second guess what angels have to say, but this is such a strange way to save the world.

Somehow when Forhem (??) put that song out, it captured my imagination because I think it expressed so clearly my own sense of, well, that very wonder. Is this not a strange way to save the world?

You know the story, it's not new. I suppose one of the things that is most true about this particular season of the year is that you can almost guess what's gonna be said in church today, almost any church, anywhere, any place because it's gonna have something to do with this old, old story. It's familiar and yet, for me it still strikes me as strange.

Comes on the heels of 400 years of silence. It's been four centuries since God has spoken in a way that men had an opportunity to hear. And in Luke's version, the story opens with a temple scene.

Zechariah, the priest, probably the one and only time he will have in his entire life to serve inside the inner center of the temple. He's a part of a course of priests who serve regularly at the temple grounds, but there were so many priests in those days that the odds of you actually being the person to walk inside the temple itself, were slim.

On this particular day he went in, he was offering incense before the Lord, when an angel appeared to him and announced that he and his wife, Elizabeth would have a child. Now they were old. The Bible doesn't say how old, just says well along in years and he questioned God and he was made a mute.

I find that to be an interesting connection. Four hundred years of silence and when Zechariah steps out of the temple grounds with this enormous news that he's about to have a son who will be the one who announces the coming of the Messiah, he can't say anything. More silence! Quite frankly, It's a strange way to save the world.

It's in Luke 1 if you just want to pick up bits and pieces of the story. Ah, this is the announcement that the angel makes to Zechariah about his son, to be John, who we will know as John the Baptist. Verse 14 of Luke 1 says: "He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

It's a strange way, if you ask me, to save the world! Joseph's just a carpenter. He's not particularly a man of means, common laborer. Has his own carpenter shop. Hard to know how old he is, probably, as a young adult, 30 years old or so. He's engaged, you know, to a young woman by the name of Mary. Now I say that with a bit of tongue in cheek. A young woman was probably 13 or 14 years old when she was engaged to be married. It's probably a pre-arranged marriage. He probably has, actually, very little knowledge of who she is other than maybe family acquaintances. He knows her to be a good girl, certainly his parents would not have picked someone who wasn't. And you know the story. It is such an odd story and if you put yourself in either Mary or Joseph's shoes, surely you find yourself struggling just a little. Their engaged to be married. They have maintained a righteous relationship between the two of them and one day Mary has an announcement to make to Joseph, her beloved, soon to be husband.--By the way, I'm pregnant. Oh, I've never known a man. I haven't slept with anybody else, but as a matter of fact, I am pregnant. I'm sure Joseph found that easy to believe. I mean I can see Mary, can't you see Mary saying over Joseph's protestations, no really it's true. I know it's never happened before in the history of the world, but honestly, I am having a baby because God has sent an angel to tell me so.

Okay, carpenter Joseph, deal with that! You know, it's a strange way to save the world, to send salvation through a 13 year old unmarried girl. But is that not what the announcement said? You'll find it right here in Luke's gospel, Chapter 1:31.

The angel says, You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon 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.

If you want Matthew's version which really is from the perspective of the father, Joseph, back over in Chapter 1 of Matthew, Joseph, wresting with the news, you can just tell it in the way that the text is written, he's struggling with the information.

Matthew 1:18 says: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

It's a strange way to save the world.

And the story goes by so quickly when we tell it today, I mean, it doesn't take a long time to sit down and read Luke 1 and 2 and maybe Matthew 1 and 2. In fact, we would tell the story and have plenty of time for coffee between services. But it took nine months to have the baby back then just like it takes nine months to have a baby now. And after Mary has gone to visit cousin Elizabeth, who is carrying Jesus' cousin John the Baptist, she comes back three months later.

Well, three months on a 13 year old pregnant girl and she's beginning to look pregnant. It's a small town. She's wandering the streets as an unmarried pregnant teenager. How do you suppose people are talking? What do ya suppose they're saying about Joseph?

Oh, you can hear his story down at the coffee show, can't you? When he goes down with the boys, he hears them rustling in the side office over there, talking about the pregnant girl. Oh, it's not mine. She's pregnant by God. I didn't do it! Yeah, they would believe that just like you would. And so for nine months they lived with the chagrin unable to ever prove that this is anything other than an ordinary birth.

It's a strange way to save the world.

Eight days after the birth of Jesus, when it's time to go to the temple grounds, you know the experience. They take baby Jesus. They go to the temple and there they run into two old prophet and prophetess, Simeon and Anna. Anna, who is mentioned second in Luke, tells everybody that this is the righteousness of Israel. Simeon, the old man, who has, at some point in his earlier life, heard God basically say, you will see the Messiah before you will come to the end of your life.

When Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple grounds to offer their doves as a sacrifice of cleansing and rejoicing, they run into Simeon.

And in Chapter 2, here are the words that Simeon speaks. Luke 2:34: . . .Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

It's a strange announcement to make to a young mother whom we are reminded pondered these things in her heart all of her life.

Well, you know the rest of the story. He grows up to be a young boy. They take him to the temple grounds. He has some conversations. He then goes silent for 18 more years. We don't see anything about him until one day he shows up in order to be baptized by John the Baptist and he begins the process of saving the world. He chooses a dozen men to follow him. A strange lot, a fisherman or two, a tax collector, a traitor, a Zealot and he spends three years trying to train this motley group to be people who will change the world. And of course, as you know, by the time he gets done with his training, he comes to the place that he, himself has to die.

And lest we forget that Christmas ends at Easter, we're reminded by one of those fishermen that he called to follow him for three years, we are reminded by his own words this statement. For Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, to bring you to God.

It's a strange way to save the world. To send a baby to become a man only to turn around and die, but, God often does his best work in strange ways.

Well, there are some things that come out of this Christmas story that probably we ought to at least be reminded of as we go through these next few days to prepare to celebrate the birth of this one who came as Immanuel, God with us, who came as Jesus, the one sent to save the world. He came to a real place at the right time. Sometimes we forget that this really is a true story. It really did happen at a place and time in history. It did occur over there in Israel 2000 years ago.

When Paul was reflecting on this a few years after the event, this is what he said in Galatians Chapter 4:4. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. . . . . . . . (when the time was fully come) He came to a real place at the right time. Oh, the real place was as real as any barn you've ever been in, complete with manger and stock and hay, and, oh, all that other stuff you have memories of it you've ever been around barns. A real place--towns like Bethlehem and Nazareth--places like Egypt and I suppose, you were going to use words for them, if you never thought to put words on this journey, when they showed up in Bethlehem, they were strangers. When they went to Egypt they were refugees. When they came home, he was just a common laborer in a carpenter shop. A real place at the right time.

. . . . when the time had fully come. . . This was the time of the Roman occupation and it doesn't sound particularly as a good time unless you understand that Roman occupation meant free travel for anybody who wanted to go anywhere. It meant road systems that had been developed in order for Roman armies to get from one place to another quickly. It was an era when the language was common to them all. When Greek and Aramaic had been spread widely to every part of the corners of the country. It was a time and a place when the Septuagint (Old Testament) had been placed in the hands of people so they could all read the story of God's work among his people. It was a time when the Synagogue had developed coming out of the Babylonia captivity so there were places all over the country side for teaching and preaching to occur. It was a time when God had been silent for so long that people were dying to hear a voice. It was the right time for the Messiah. But not only did he come to a real place the right time, he came to real people for the right reason.

1Timothy 1--In a passing remark the apostle Paul makes about himself he says, Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. See, he came to real people.

He came to a 13 year old girl and a 30 year old man. He came and he walked among fishermen and he spend time with prostitutes. He ate at those who were self-righteous table. He spent time with oppressed and the broken and the needy. He fed the hungry and he healed the hurting. And he came to bring salvation. Contrary to what most people thought the Messiah might bring--contrary to maybe what most people even wanted, he brought what they really needed and that was a fresh relationship with God. He came to bring salvation. That's why they called him Jesus, because he would save their people from their sins. They were looking for some kind of release from oppression and he was looking to release them of the greatest oppression of all, a broken relationship with God. To give life that is bigger than life.

He came to a real place at the right time. He came to real people for the right reason. He became a real person with the right message.

John has no Christmas story. Well, I mean, not in the traditional sense that we usually think of Christmas stories. John's Christmas story sounds like this in John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Verse 18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. But maybe my favorite part of John's Christmas text is back in Verse 12: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--(the privilege, the opportunity, the power) to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The big word for John 1 is the incarnation. God became flesh and set his tent up among us and he lived with us. He became a real person with flesh and blood. He knew what it meant to be hungry and to be tired and to grieve and to ache and to rejoice and to eat, to laugh and to mourn and to be tempted. He knew what it meant to be YOU! To lose loved ones, to walk through pain, to share in grief, to rejoice at birthdays, to be elated at births, to cry at funerals and he came with the right message. He, in essence said, this is what God is like--he's kind--he's just--he's gracious and he loves you. It really is a strange way to save the world.

But I remain convinced that God does some of his best work in strange ways.

Paul's statement--you heard it--I read it! Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners to draw men to himself. There was a baby born so that God himself could come to us, so that we ourselves could come back to him. It's a strange way to save the world, to say to sinful humans, like you and me, that if you really want to know God, you have to pass through. . . . . . . . . . . . you have to believe in One who came through a pregnant teenager. You have to believe in One who allowed himself to be put to death rather than use his power to stop people from killing him. You've got to believe in One who says, Come to me and I will give you rest. Take my burden upon you, for my burden is easy.

To those, John said, who received him, to them he gave the right to become sons of God. He's put you in a position. He's given you the privilege of coming to faith in Jesus, which gives you an opportunity to know God personally as his own son, his own daughter.

And you know, this is the message you get every week in church--the Christmas story. That God became flesh and dwelt among us that we might know God. He came so you would come to him.

And we want to give you that opportunity. If you know what to do in your journey before God to come into faith with him, then we're inviting you to make that next step. If you have never been immersed into Christ, but you have faith in him and have never taken that obedience step, we want to help you take that step. If you've never known for sure how to get started, we'd like to have you ask us and let us help you along the way. We would love for you to celebrate Christmas this year with a fresh start in life.

Let's stand and sing this song.