“Purposeful Waiting: Waiting Fulfilled!” sermon from 12/26/10
Have you ever set out to do something, be a part of something, etc and once you get there you have this feeling of being unsettled? Well, this last week my wife and I finally saw a movie we’ve wanted to see for a long time. About a year and a half ago or so we even tried to see it in the theater only to arrive just too late and find out it had been sold out. This was supposed to be a date night for us that we had planned for. This made us had to go back to my wife’s parents’ house who were watching our daughter and spend some time with them (which wasn’t really a bad option). The movie we wanted to see that we finally saw was “Up.” Now, I am sure many of you have seen this movie. It’s about an elderly man named Carl who sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream of a great expedition traveling to a place called Paradise Falls in South America. He has dreamed about his chance to go here for a long time, ever since he was mesmerized by an explorer named Charles Muntz and the fabulous scenery and adventure the falls had to offer. In the process of his life, Carl meets a young girl with this same dream and aspiration. They get married and multiple times set out to fulfill their dream of one day having their dream home beside Paradise Falls. It turns out that they are never able to fulfill this dream together as something unexpected always seems to come up causing them to focus their savings on that instead and starting over. The movie then reaches the point where Carl’s wife dies and it’s at this moment, near the end of his life as well, that he makes up his mind, devising a plan of tying thousands of balloons to their home in hopes of floating to Paradise Falls. That gives you some background, but there’s something else I want to focus on here quickly too. In the movie, Carl does finally reach his dream destination, house intact, right beside Paradise Falls, and there he seems to have a revelation. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be; he was unsettled. Sure it was beautiful and he fulfilled a lifelong dream, but something still just wasn’t completely right. He had held on so tight, striven for so long, tried so hard, only to experience a let-down in the end. Thankfully this let down doesn’t last as it makes him realize some things in life that are more important and the rest of the movie is about him giving himself to those things.
I’ll ask again, have you ever been there? You set out to achieve, do, be a part of something great, but once you got there you still just had this lull in your spirit and you feel unsettled. Maybe you’re feeling this way right now, today, because Christmas can do this to us. We can put all of ourselves into Christmas, wanting to have the best one imaginable for us, our kids, and family and friends only to reach the morning after maybe having a good time, receiving/giving lots of neat things, but then there’s just this unsettled feeling within. I’ll be a little honest with you… I often feel unsettled right after Christmas, and it’s not because I didn’t get everything I wanted. Mostly it’s because I am not completely satisfied with my everyday life between Christmases, from year to year. And, basically every Christmas I am not satisfied with the life of the Gospel within and around it in our society. I am always wanting this to be better expressed, better lived out, better noticed in all of the season, and the ways in which we fall short leave me unsettled.
So, are you maybe tired? You may be pretty happy with your Christmas, but you have to admit it’s pretty taxing. You may connect with this unsettled thing, and maybe you don’t. You may be like me and can relate to the couple things I mentioned. Regardless we have reached the day after Christmas, and now what? It can be like this a Christmas hangover, you reach the day after and you have to recover for normal, everyday life has returned or will soon be here.
I wonder if this is how things were for the people back in Jesus’ day as well. They had been waiting, wanting, yearning, preparing (planning & doing), anticipating fulfillment to come by the hand of God for a long time. I am sure there was much disappointment, unsettlement, as the waiting and striving continued on. Also, even after Jesus came I am sure at least some disappointment lingered too as Jesus didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. We get to these moments and we hope that everything hasn’t been for naught. What happens now, we ask?
Well, that’s where I want to take you this morning, what happens now, after the birth of Jesus, now that He has come, now that He is here. He’s been promised, we’ve been waiting, He’s come, now what… Turn with me to Matthew 2:13-23 and follow along as I read…
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
So, what we have here is Matthew’s telling of the days, maybe months to a certain extent, after Jesus’ birth. Matthew’s is telling us what took place after the manger scene. Most manger scenes, or live nativities, I am familiar with end with the wise men coming and offering gifts, but what happens next? It seems to me like we don’t really get there usually in recognizing Christmas, and even Advent along with it. We have the build-up, the excitement and celebration… we get there and life goes on, right? Well, then what’s the point? Why all the hoopla if that’s all there is? Well, I guess that’s the difference, we know that isn’t all there is. There’s something more, something bigger, something behind it all, and because of it things aren’t like they always have been. Life as we know it, as the people in Jesus’ day knew it, was profoundly affected by this event. Really, there is more going on here than meets the eye (Transformers anyone…?), and there is in all of life. Behind life as we know it is a story, a drama unfolding that we are all a part of whether we take notice of it or not. That’s what the passage we just read from shows us. Let’s go back and take a closer look…
Verse 13 picks up right after the wise men left to return to their own country. Right away we can tell that the wise men and Mary and Joseph know that life isn’t just the same old, same old anymore (is it ever, really?—this implies that nothing’s really happening amidst it all, nothing’s really going on around us, everything’s just always the same). The wise men leave and it says in verse 12 that they went home a different way than which they came. Life as they knew it had changed and they couldn’t go back the way they came. As we encounter Mary and Joseph in the verses we read from as well we can see that they find themselves within this greater drama going on around them too, and they seem well aware of it all. So that’s at least one thing to take away from this passage… Life as we know it isn’t just life as we know it or the same old, same old. There is something going on, being played out, amidst it all… More than meets the eye…
So again, our passage leads us into some of the unfolding drama within as it says, “Now after they had left (the wise men), an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream (one indication that some more is going on here) and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.” Then the passage says, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’” That’s the phrase I want us to take notice of this morning, “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet…” This phrase alone is repeated two more times as Joseph and Mary continue to live and act within the greater story going on, unfolding among them in regards to the Christ child as it says in verse 17, “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah…” and in vs. 23, which reads “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’” What Matthew is pointing out is the answer to the question I brought up in the introduction…, He’s been promised, we’ve been waiting, He’s come, now what? Well, now the stage is set for the fulfillment of what has been promised, and it appears that God doesn’t waste any time. In the matter of 10 verses and three different but related strings of events, the prophecies of Jesus begin being fulfilled, almost like a domino effect… One right after another!
As I said in the Christmas Eve message Friday night, God promises to use our uncertain times (they’re not uncertain to Him) to accomplish in the fullness of time His bigger and better purposes all around the world, and deep within us. That’s what God (as Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) has been doing since the very beginning. So what does this mean for us? Well, we can be confident in knowing that God knows what He’s doing, has a plan, and is (always has been) working out that plan.
It has been counted by many that there are over 300 (most references I found say about 360) prophecies foretold about Jesus the Messiah, and Jesus fulfills every one of them! We see three right in our passage for today and there’s already some that precede these as it had been foretold that a virgin would be with child and give birth to a son, his name is to be Immanuel meaning “God with us” and Jesus meaning “he saves”, he would be born in Bethlehem, he would come from the line of David and the people of Judah, and so on, and so on… Do you realize how absurd this is?! 360 prophecies foretold, many even hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus was born and He then fulfills them all! Seriously, I could have ten coins in my hand and the probability that I could shake them up, pour them out, and they would all come up heads (or tails) is about 1 and 1000. Anyone here seen the movie Dumb & Dumber? Well, I love that part where Jim Carey’s character, Lloyd, is asking his love interest, Mary, what his chances are that they could end up together. She replies, “Oh, about one out of a million.” To which Lloyd says, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” Well, that’s kind of like what I am getting at here, but to a whole nether level entirely! Get this (this is out of a devotional book I’ve been reading), if you add together the probabilities of just 13 independent and non-related prophecies being correct, the chances are 1 in 10 to the 138th power (that’s 10 with 138 zeros behind it!) of them all being fulfilled. And then another crazy thing about Biblical prophecies is that they aren’t just independent and non-related. They’re all interconnected, and that’s even more unheard of considering that many were told 100’s or years apart and by completely different people who didn’t even know each other. This goes to show that there is something of insurmountable proportions going on in all things, and we are smack-dab in the middle of it!
This is why I have entitled this message for this morning Waiting Fulfilled. For the last 5 Sundays now we have been hearing messages about the Advent season tied to the theme of waiting. I have tried to get across to you that something is upon us. That’s what Advent is all about. It’s the sense or recognition that something is upon us, is on the verge or brink, the cusp of breaking into our existence; of making his presence known. God literally does this! He Himself breaks into our existence making Himself known in a whole new and glorious way. It is because of this I have tried to make the argument these last so many Sundays that in light of our present Advent of today as we find ourselves waiting as well for Christ to come again, what is upon us, we can wait Hope-filled, Love-filled, Peace-filled, & Joy-filled. Well, what we find here, in our passage for this morning, is that for the people of Jesus’ day, their waiting had been finally fulfilled! They saw what had been promised unfold right before their very eyes. Can you imagine having that experience?
Well, we can have that experience today too. I’ll tell ya, and I know I am not the only crazy one (and I am not on drugs or drunk either), but I see God at work all over the place. It’s not always easy or clear, but the closer I get to this story (hold up the Bible), the more I understand my own story and the one unfolding all around me. The closer I get to this story and understanding my own within it, the more fulfillment I see within and around me and the less unsettled I become. This is much the reason why I believed and became a Christian in the first place… It’s was like a light went off… God has been at work since the very day I believed, and even way before that. I know because my life has gone in the direction it has solely because of Him! Right here, in my hand (hold up the Bible), are the tellings of His story throughout all time, and even beyond. You want to get cued in to the story? Do you want to experience fulfillment in your life and the world around you, especially considering all that happens, all you do, and have striven and waited for? It’s right here, in God’s Word, in Jesus Christ! Let it/Him open your eyes, fill & change your heart, direct your life, and Jesus will become your source of life until when all things are fulfilled, and beyond!