Christmas Hope: Hope for the Family

Good morning Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here and it’s a great pleasure to speak with you this morning about the concept of Hope, specifically – Hope for the Family.

Last week I got a text from my daughter – she texted me and said she was having a thanksgiving meal with her friends in Lincoln and that she was in charge of the turkey, so she texted me to ask me how long I thought it would take to microwave a 25 pound turkey.

What do you say, right?  I just wrote back – Hahaha – you are hilarious.  Because she had to be joking, right?   Right?   Well, it turns out she was – it was some kind of thing – around the country college kids asked their parents – I think Becca was sad we didn’t take the bait – but many parents did.  I found some funny ones I thought we could laugh at together….

  1. Don’t ever get married.
  2. I should’ve never let you move out.
  3. Planning a big dinner and trip to the ER?
  4. you know it’s getting serious when it goes all caps! She will calmly call the police-(four slides)
  5. Wrap in tin foil and Put in microwave so you can feed the fire department.
  6. You think your mom’s off the ‘gram?

Sometimes families are sources of hijinks and fun, and sometimes families are sources of great pain.  Today we are starting our Christmas series – we are calling it Christmas Hope- and today Jesus brings hope to the family.  Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is a source of hope for the world and a source of hope for the family.

There is hope for your family!  (Oh Phil, if you only saw what we saw at Thanksgiving!)  I know, right?  Family!

Christmas provides hope for the family.

  1. Christmas reminds us of the importance of family.
  2. Christmas provides for us the perspective we need for a healthy family.
  3. Christmas reminds us of the place of the family.

Let’s get started by talking about the importance of family.  And we will read Matthew 1

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Sometimes I am blown away by the thought that – not only has God become flesh and made his home among us – but that God became a baby.  And was born into a family.  He did not have to do this, there was no reason why Jesus couldn’t have walked out of the desert one day a fully grown man.   There was no theological reason that God had to be born.  Into a family.

Why was he?  Why did he subject himself to having a mom and dad that he needed to obey?  Students in the room – did you know that there are few glimpses of Jesus as a child – but one of the glimpses we see of Jesus growing up was when he was on the verge of being a teenager – and there is a communication problem between he and his folks regarding when the caravan was leaving, and they left Jesus behind in the city by himself – and they travel a day without realizing Jesus was with them.

At the end of the day Joseph was like Mary – I thought he was with you – and Mary was like – I though the was with you, Joseph!  And so the next day they travel back to Jerusalem – and it says that Mary didn’t understand Jesus.

Students – ever feel like your parents don’t quite understand you?  Jesus understands that. He understands family.

How do you think Jesus felt?  When I was a youth pastor we had a large youth group and at the end of every event there would be like three kids sitting on the curb and their parents forgot to pick them up.  And I would say – okay let’s see whose parents love you the least.  Last one to get picked up.  I didn’t say I was a good youth pastor, they knew I was just kidding – in fact quite a few times it led to conversations with kids who actually felt like their parents didn’t see them.

Here’s Jesus – three days without his parents?  What do you think He felt?  You do know Jesus felt, don’t you?  He was human and experienced not only the joys but the pains of a family.

When God becomes a human being he willingly subjected himself to all that family means to you and me too.

One thing you have to admit about Jesus – he didn’t spare himself the pain that often comes with families.

He could have been born in a palace – not a barn.  He could have been born wealthy not poor.  (Oh but didn’t the wise men bring Jesus gold?)  Yea and that gold financed his flight to Egypt, where Jesus lived as a refugee – a stranger in a foreign land for a number of years.

See sometimes the Christmas story – it’s filled with so much sentiment that it softens the hard edges.  But Jesus’ life was no Hallmark Christmas story.  His family life was difficult.

I mean – in the eyes of the world – Jesus was born to an unwed teenage mother.  You and I know the real story – not so to the first century world.

If it’s at all awkward to be a teenage mom in today’s world – how much more so in the first century?  Jesus was considered an ‘illegitimate child’ as if there is such a thing.  This is why the pharisees – in John chapter 8 – say to Jesus in response – hey we aren’t the illegitimate ones here…  do you think Jesus felt that stigma growing up?

At some point Joseph disappears from the story.  And we assume, because he was a godly man – that he died at some point in the story.  We don’t know when.  I had a dad voluntarily leave my family when I was 15, anyone else have to take up the mantle of being the man of the family at 15?  I wonder if Jesus understands that particular burden?

Anyone have a parent they love die at too young an age?  Grow up through those difficult teen years without your dad?  I wonder if Jesus knows your unique pain that comes at family celebrations to not have a dad at the head of a table.

Well at least Jesus had his brothers – family got his back, right?

Here is Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, proclaiming the good news that through faith in Jesus our sins are forgiven and entrance to the kingdom of heaven is thrown wide open – whosoever believes in me shall have life!  And yet in John 7 it says his own brothers had not yet come to the point where they believe in him.

Worse even- there is a pretty awkward scene in Mark chapter 3:21 that says Jesus’ brothers came to take him home one time.  They thought he was losing his mind – after all he was walking around telling people he was the son of God and people were worshipping him and he didn’t stop them – they came to bring him home…  you ever have family try to commit you…

This is why Jesus says that a prophet has honor everywhere except where?  His hometown and his family.

Now they eventually do come to faith in Jesus but not until after he was resurrected from the dead.  Ever have a family that you think doesn’t believe in you?

And yet, Jesus submits himself to this family.  Why?  Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses… NIV

This word Empathy means – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Jesus demonstrates for us the importance of family – he could have bypassed all of this and just walked out of the desert one day a fully grown man…  but instead he embraces life as we know it and becomes part of a human family.

And even there, he could have been part of a healthy happy family – he could have spared himself the anguish that often comes from life in family – but he didn’t.

We might not understand why God gave us the family he did – but we must at least admit that Jesus was willing to take his own medicine.  He did not spare himself the difficulties that come from being part of a family.  He knew that family is important.

He knew the family he needed to become who he needed to become – and God knows the family you needed to become the person you are becoming.

And let me just say – there are some who have had awful parents – abusive parents – and that is never the way it should be.  It is not God’s desire to see you abused.  And why that happens might be one of the reasons why you don’t believe in God right now.

And all I can say is that Jesus came to offer you a better family.  Brothers and sisters in Jesus who will love you and cherish you and honor you and treat you with the respect and dignity you’ve always wanted.  This is your family.  Jesus came to make it possible for you to be adopted by God our Father himself – you will never leave you, never abandon you- never harm you.

Jesus himself told us this – one time his brothers and mother came to check in on Jesus – and they couldn’t get in because of the crowd and someone says – your brothers are outside waiting to see you…  and Jesus said – who are my brothers?  Who is my mother?  The people who believe in me.

Is Jesus dissing his family?  No he is expanding it.  Through faith in Jesus we are his family.

And what a family it is.  Brothers and sisters in the Lord willing to help.  Willing to lay down and serve one another.

And this is the second way that Christmas brings hope to our families.  Christmas provides for us the perspective we need in order to love our family – whether it be your birth family or your church family – and let me explain what I mean.

If Jesus is God in the flesh – if he was born – and lived and preached the good news and died the death that he died on the cross for us – if all of that is true – do we understand what that means?

It means that we were in far worse shape than we ever could have imagined.  We were in dire straights indeed.  If the death of Jesus on that cross was the only thing that could save us?  We are were far more evil, far more sinful and selfish – in far more danger than we ever knew.

Christmas should bring a tremendous humility to all of us.  Nothing less than the death of Jesus could save you.  Shouldn’t that humble us to recognize?

But – what it also means is that we are far more valuable in God’s eyes than we could ever imagine.  How much are we worth to God?  His own life!

Christmas humbles us and affirms us at the same time.

So here’s the deal.  When you come to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with your life, then these two truths run simultaneously in your life and begin to transform you into a new kind of human being.

And what does humility and affirmation have to do with a healthy family?  I dunno – everything perhaps?

I’d say that – we love to talk about the word “love” a lot – and for good reason – but if we were to look at the passages in the bible that talk about having a good marriage and strong family – I’d say humility is the word that strings all the passages together – We become humble enough that we can serve others joyfully.  We can submit to one another in love.  If you turned to Ephesians 5 you find Paul’s advice to husbands, wives and children.  Humbly serve – humbly and joyfully submit – to one another and to Jesus….

And yet affirmation is just as important – my affirmation comes from God who says – you are my son – you are my daughter – whom I love, and in whom I am well pleased.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus ever heard those words from his earthly dad Joseph?  I would think so – I have no reason to believe that Joseph was anything other than a great dad – but even if he hadn’t – he heard those words from his Heavenly Father!  Who affirmed him!

And once we understand how God feels about us?  Well, we no longer need the affirmation of all of these other people that many of us spend our lives trying to please.  We don’t need as many pats on the back and strokes – as don’t need to jump through hoops in a game of trying to get people to like us.

It also means we aren’t crushed if people who ought to affirm us – like our family, fail to do what they ought.

Because – we are already liked – and loved by a God who paid the ultimate price, because we were in far worse shape than we knew, but we were loved far more than we could have imagined.  And that humbles us and affirms us at the same time, and equips us to be able to love and live in a family.

So we are humbled by our need for such a sacrifice – it keeps us from getting too high an opinion of ourselves – and yet we are affirmed – keeping us from having too a view of ourselves.  Faith erodes self-centeredness and positions us to be able to joyfully serve and love others without ulterior motives.

Christmas humbles us and affirms us at the same time and gives us the perspective we need to be able to selflessly love our family.

Lastly – the Christmas story reminds us of the purpose of the Family.

What is the purpose of the family?  A safe environment within which we are changed and transformation.  It’s the primary place of transformation in a life.  It is the primary stage upon which the gospel is played out on a daily basis.

And here’s the deal – transformation is messy.  It’s painful.  It’s time consuming.  But it’s glorious – because – in a family where God is placed first – a family who loves the Lord and is humbled and affirmed by the work of Jesus – those kinds of husbands are able to see NOT what their wives are but what their wives are in the process of becoming.

Those kinds of wives are able to see not what their husband is right now but what they are in the process of becoming as they grow in their faith.

Those kinds of parents – humble and affirmed – are able to see beyond the mess their kids might be now and see what they can become.  And so that kind of family encourages and prays, and patiently loves, and speaks in a way that honors one another.

If Christmas is true, that God came from heaven to earth to rescue us and adopt us into the family of God – then it forces us to realize that our family is not the most important thing – as important as family is – it does not deserve top billing in our life.

And let’s take a moment to thank God that our families are not the most important thing in our life – because let’s be real.  Our families are a mess!

Many people enter into a marriage looking for a finished product.  Someone who is put together and all neat.  And then we have kids and we want our kids to be good kids who don’t embarrass us.  And then kids grow up and they want parents who don’t embarrass them.  We just want our families to be good and put together.

But is there any family like that?  The reality is that you are a mess.  And you married a mess.  And you married into a family of messes.  And you gave birth to messes.  That’s the truth.

That’s okay because the family isn’t meant to be a picture of perfection, is it?  It’s meant to be a picture of grace and repentance and love and transformation.  It’s meant to be the place where we see in each other – not what we can get out of them, but what they are becoming.

Spouses – the person you married is an unfinished product.  They are a mess – such a mess that only the birth of Jesus could rescue them.  And yet – do you know how valuable your spouse is?  Jesus willingly paid the price for him.

And he wants you to see in your spouse what he sees.   We see what the other can become.  And we submit ourselves to God and ask him what our role is in helping them become all they can become.

Parents – your kids are not perfect and they need a safe environment from which they can figure out what it looks like to become a godly person.  You understand this more with kids – we see their potential- we sense what they can become and our roe is to ask God what can we do to be part of the transformation and growth of your kids.

Kids – your parents are unfinished people.  They are not perfect -any more than you are…  You know how messed up they are?  God himself needed to be born in order to rescue them.  And yet, do you know how valuable they are?  God himself was will to die for them.  See in them, what God sees in them.  And cherish them as they cherish you.

The family is the safe place within which we are transformed into something beautiful for His name’s sake.

I’ll close with this last thought.  There’s a story that Jesus tells – about a man who was a merchant – who specialized in pearls and would go to the market in search of beautiful pearls.  One day he finds a pearl that takes his breath away – it’s the most beautiful pearl he’s ever laid eyes on – and yet – the cost of that pearl is so much – that he has to go and sell everything he has in order to buy that pearl.  He traded everything he had – gave it all up – in order to have that pearl as his own.

You know you are the pearl, don’t you?  Jesus left heaven and is born in a stable – he dies penniless on a cross – he gave it all up for you.  You are the pearl.  Your spouse is the pearl.  Your kids are the pearl.  Jesus gave up all he had in order to call you his own.

How humbling.  How affirming!  How beautiful!