The Word of the Lord Disrupts the Course of the Whole World
Ninth is a series, “The Disruptive Word”
Isaiah 9:2–7 // Titus 2:11–14 // Luke 2:1–14
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text this Christmas night is the Gospel reading from Luke chapter two, “And she wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger.” Our text thus far.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christmas is a time when the Word of the Lord disrupts the course of the whole world. He meets our violence with his peace. He meets our hate with his love. He meets our might with his weakness. He meets our poverty with his riches. He meets our sin with his salvation. The Word of the Lord disrupts the whole world on a quiet night, outside of a little inn, with the birth of a baby whose name is Jesus.
We’ve been meditating on this truth for the past four and a half weeks, that the Word of the Lord disrupts our lives especially when we’re stuck in harmful patterns and we can’t get out.
There’s this place near Rockford, IL, where Interstate 39 and Interstate 90 merge. It was on my way from home to St. Louis, there was regularly construction on the roads, and more than once, I can tell you that I turned off when I should have stayed on.
But here’s the thing about this particular junction. Usually if you take a wrong turn, you can turn it around or find a different route. Not so here. I can say this with experience: if you turned off the freeway onto I-90, you were stuck. You were on that toll road for 10, 15 miles before you could turn around.
30 minutes and a couple dollars worth of change later, I finally got turned around and headed in the right direction, but here’s the point. There was a time when, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t stop. Even after I knew my mistake, I couldn’t change. I was stuck.
Because we have all felt stuck.
Not too far away from here is a man sleeping in his car who has been stuck. His actions hurt his family, and he couldn’t seem to stop. He saw it coming from a mile away, and still couldn’t seem to help himself. He feels stuck, because there’s no way to make his family whole anymore.
And not too far away from him is a family who feels trapped. They can’t do any of the normal things to blow off steam. They are on top of one another. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters can’t seem to talk anymore. The pressure is mounting, and they feel trapped.
And not too far away from them are you and I. Are you feeling stuck, feeling trapped tonight? Sitting in a sanctuary that can hold twice its number today, bringing all our selves into the very presence of God—all of our struggles, all of our fear, all of our anger, all of our sadness, all of our change.
As the darkness of December deepens, once again we find ourselves at the foot of the manger, listening to the voices of angels singing. Once again, we remember the quiet faithfulness of Mary and Joseph. Once again we remember the miraculous vulnerability of our God, that all of God is contained in human flesh, that in Jesus, the course of the whole world is unstuck.
In Jesus, we are all disrupted.
Two thoughts as we consider how the Word of the Lord disrupts the course of the whole world. Two harmful patterns that the Lord breaks us out of, that we couldn’t get out of on our own.
First, God disrupts the pattern of this world’s cares.
Second, God disrupts the deep darkness with his light.
First, God disrupts the pattern of the world’s cares. Know this, that Caesar Augustus didn’t decree that all the world should be registered because he knew the Savior needed to be born in Bethlehem.
Quirinius the governor of Syria was not sitting at the edge of his seat wondering if the king of the universe was to be born during his first term of office. King Herod the Great didn’t even particularly know that Jesus was born until Magi from Persia came and told him. Even the people in the house upstairs from the stable wouldn’t have thought anything besides that a regular baby had been born in the regular way, albeit in a strange place.
And yet in the affairs of the nations, of the regions, of the cities, even in the heart of the innkeeper who gave his stable for Jesus, God had been fulfilling prophesy. Without as much as anyone noticing, God was using all things to disrupt the course of the whole world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says much the same thing during his last months of life. He was a German pastor who turned double-agent for the Allies, started an underground seminary in Germany, but the most remarkable part of his life were his last months. You see, he was sent to prison for the last nine months of his life and executed at the end. And his calling in those months was as remarkable as it was ordinary: to minister to his neighbor—his fellow prisoners and his guards. And whether he could see it or not, the Lord used those months powerfully.
It would be easy for him to feel as though the affairs of the nations had swept him away from the work that he was doing, that he was trapped by the greater political machine, but the greater reality was that God had worked through his ordinary calling, God had directed the affairs of those nations. God was in control.
Peter Rollins says it much the same way about Mother Teresa: “Mother Teresa neither protested the caste system (of India) nor did she affirm it. She simply lived in a different reality.” As a Christian, we simply live in a different reality. We care about things differently.
These are days when we can feel swept away by the world’s cares. Political strife runs deep. Frustration boils over. People feel powerless. It’s easy to feel stuck.
But the Word of the Lord disrupts the cares of the world. In the babe of Bethlehem, all of the world’s hate meets all of the love incarnate of God. All of the world’s war meets the peace of the Prince of Peace. The strength of the world’s sin meets the weakness and foolishness of the God of the universe who would die on a cross for you and me.
First, God disrupts the pattern of this world’s cares. Second, God disrupts the deep darkness with his light. That’s the bright promise of Isaiah 9.
When I think of deep darkness, I remember being a college student and living a college student lifestyle. I decided that I would start my homework at 10 or 10:30pm, which meant that I could go for a run at about 9pm. Now, unfortunately for me, the fitness center had sensible hours and was closed, but I thought that I was smart. I knew that the track was open. I thought that it was clear, and so I ran out to the track. One mile in, two miles in, I was feeling good. But I had slowly been widening my circles around the track until, I was really cruising, coming around the bend, in the pitch black, Huuuuuuuuu! I hit a track hurdle. And that was the end of that.
But the point is, in the darkness that hurdle came out of nowhere. Totally unexpected. In the light, I could’ve seen it from a mile away. Totally obvious.
Darkness hems us in. Darkness hides the danger. Darkness makes the way confusing and treacherous.
So it is with our sin. Sin hems us in. Far from setting us free from God’s demands, sin enslaves us to something worse. Sin hides its danger under the guise of not hurting anyone, or being my own problem, of not being so bad.
And the babe of Bethlehem, who is love incarnate, would say to you this very night, “I am the light of the world. Follow after me. As I love, so you love. As I do, so you do. Where I lead, there you bear your cross.”
You see, the test of the Christian is to ask this: “Could I add “I love you, and” to the thing that I’m going to say?” If you can’t, then don’t say it. Can you add “I love you and” to the action you’re about to do? If you can’t, then don’t do it.
For love came down at Christmas, love incarnate, love in the flesh. Love came down at Christmas and love grew up and began his ministry with his baptism at the Jordan River. Love incarnate walked among his disciples. Love incarnate called the Pharisees out in their hypocrisy. Love incarnate longed to gather Jerusalem like a hen gathers her chicks yet they would not. Love incarnate spoke words of Law and words of Gospel. Love incarnate died your death for the entirety of the world’s sin. Love incarnate rose for you and for me.
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who is living in a new reality. He hears the words echoed in his heart, do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The kingdom of heaven is like a woman who lost everything only to realize that her treasure is hidden in Christ on high.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family growing on up in their Savior Jesus Christ, learning to love what he loves and learning to follow where he goes.
The kingdom of heaven is like brothers and sisters gathered in a Sanctuary, gathered with all of their fears, all of their hopes, all of their doubts, all of their prayers.
They confess their fears and know that their God says, “You do not have to fear, even if you are afraid. God’s got this.”
They lay out their hopes and their doubts, knowing that God knew them already, and, in his word, he answers.
They pray that God would hold close the people that they can’t be near this year. They find it in their hearts once again to remember that God is directing all things, and when Christ comes for the second time, he will make all things right.
The Word of the Lord disrupts our lives.
God disrupts the pattern of this world’s cares; he creates a different reality for Christians to live in.
God disrupts the deep darkness with his light; his love is the light that leads us.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters