Hark the Herald Angels Sing!

Below are my notes for this past weekend’s teaching, Pt. 3 of the Silent Nights series.

The Christmas story is really a narrative about how the extraordinary entered the realm of the ordinary. Consider that after 400 years of silence, the timeframe between the Old and New Testaments, God breaks the silence by showing up in the lives of people that truly represent the commonality of all of us.

400 years of silence… An old priest named Zacharias, well up in years, has been faithfully performing his duties in the Temple. He and his wife, Elizabeth, despite knowing God has not spoken to his people for four centuries, have been praying diligently to have a baby. Elizabeth is beyond the age normally associated with childbearing and yet she and Zacharias are undeterred in their hopes. As he has done perhaps hundreds of times before, Zacharias enters the Temple to serve in his assignment. Most likely, this day is like every other day; he’s doing his job, showing up on time, following the regiment, just like he’s done all those many times before. Only this time, an angel appears, after 400 years, God speaks to an old man who has faithfully done his job and kept up his hopes, and tells him he had his wife will have a baby boy, they will name him John, the spirit of Elijah will be on him, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children- fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4, the last words of God 400 years earlier! John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah. The extraordinary enters the ordinary…

400 years of silence… A young teenage girl, most likely 14-16 years of age, uneducated, and assisting her mother with household chores, as was customary in her culture, has been pledged by her family to be married to a carpenter’s son. She’s a virgin, she has saved herself for marriage, and she apparently has been faithful in her duties to her family and future husband. For the most part, she is just like all of the thousands of other young women her age in ancient Israel, until one day, after 400 years of silence, an angel visits her and informs her that, extraordinarily, she will become pregnant, before she’s married, without sexual relations with anyone… She will give birth to the Messiah! The extraordinary enters the very ordinary…

400 years of silence… A young man, a carpenter, working with his father in the family business, and preparing to be married to Mary, most likely an arrangement made by the two families involved, is very much so, a commoner. Nothing at all stands out about Joseph; he’s known a hard life of hard work and knows too, he will have to work even harder once he is married. Little does he realize how is very ordinary life is about to be invaded and turned upside down in a very extraordinary way…

400 years of silence… Some shepherds, guarding sheep on a hillside outside Bethlehem, a suburb of 15,000 people on the outskirts of Jerusalem, have settled in for their night’s work. Most likely they’ve been hired by a wealthy businessman to make sure his investment is well taken care of. They are among thousands of other shepherds common to this culture. Low paid, hardworking, and smelling of sheep, they face another routine night of sheep-tending when suddenly, the ordinary is invaded by the extraordinary when an angelic host appears announcing the birth of the Messiah, in a barn, in a feed trough… God, a baby, wrapped in a blankey…

Jesus, the Son of God, enters our world, takes on our humanity, in the most humbling, approachable manner possible. He is raised in a carpenter’s home. Later in his adult life, his best friends are fishermen, tax collectors, social rejects, and those prejudiced against. Outside off the very extraordinary beginning of his life and his death and extraordinary resurrection at the end, and some miracles interspersed over a three year timespan, Jesus’ life on earth was about as common and ordinary as it gets…

The extraordinary invaded the ordinary and changed everything! Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and every other person who encountered Jesus, saw their ordinary lives become extraordinary! And it’s not just the Christmas story; it’s the reality of every life, every ordinary one of us who encounter Jesus- we experience the extraordinary and it changes everything in every way! We find our purpose and significance in Jesus, and we realize just how extraordinary he makes our ordinary!

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