By Rev. Tom Holloway, Senior pastor
Solon Center Wesleyan Church
15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs
(just north of 19 Mile)
Do you have any expectations for the Christmas season this year? Does your family have any traditions at Christmas? Many people use the day after Thanksgiving for the tradition of rising early and battling the other shoppers at the big box stores for the hopes of a new TV, I-Pad 2, or some other electronic gadget at a bargain basement price. I have to admit to doing some shopping on “Black Friday” this year, and though I didn’t get up early and wait in lines at 3:00 a.m., I must admit I have done it in the past and I really like watching that TV!
Our family has some other traditions that we like to do every Christmas, and one of them includes going out to a local tree farm and cutting down our Christmas tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Some times when we do this the weather is warm, and sometimes it’s cold, and when we’re lucky there is snow on the ground. This year it was both unseasonably warm and dry. It didn’t start raining until after we had gotten the tree loaded up on top of the minivan, and got on the road. But now it’s up, lit, and decorated, and it looks awesome!
These are the traditions, and the expectations that are a joy to me. I must admit that I have a certain level of expectation when it comes to the Christmas season, and when all of my expectations are met life is good. However, I have found that often times my expectations go unmet. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and what I would expect and anticipate doesn’t always happen. I, like you, have had Christmas seasons that I would like to forget. Losing a loved one close to Christmas can make the season that I love the most very difficult. Unfortunately, I have lost two grandparents very close to Christmas, and those years were not filled with joy, but rather sorrow.
When we read the Christmas story from Luke, we meet some characters in the Bible. One of them is Jesus’ mother, Mary. Mary has some expectations in her life. She is engaged to a man named Joseph. Joseph is from the family line of King David, the most powerful King in Israel’s history. The Messiah would come from this family line, and when Mary gets a visit from the angel Gabriel, she finds out that her expectations are about to change.
28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He 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 the house of Jacob 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 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. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
When met with some unexpected news, Mary reacts in a way that many of us would, she is “greatly troubled.” Wouldn’t we all be? When we find out that our lives are going to change, and that our expectations are going to be altered, we are usually greatly troubled. It happens when we lose a job; when we receive bad news about an illness; when we lose a loved one; when we are downsized, etc. Life can throw us some real curveballs.
Gabriel gives Mary the best news though, because he tells her that God is with her. Life is going to change for Mary and Joseph; it will be difficult to deal with the news of this miraculous birth, because people will question the validity of it. People will question Mary’s character. Joseph will have to be brave. Life is going to change and be more difficult, but even through it all, God will be with them.
So you might have some unexpected news this Christmas, and life may get altered. Life might throw you a curveball you didn’t see coming. But Jesus is there for you, and He’s not in the manger—He is with you to walk you through life’s difficulties. Expect and anticipate great things this Christmas season. As the angel tells Joseph, “Immanuel” means God with us!