(no sermon note)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Our familiar reading for today reminds me of the one about a teacher who was teaching his class when he noticed a student fooling around with a yardstick. The teacher told the kid to stop as it was distracting. The kid grudgingly obeyed. A few minutes later, the kid was tapping his desk with the same yardstick. The teacher again told him to stop and again the kid grudgingly yet respectfully obeyed. Later in the class, the kid was poking his classmates with the yardstick. Once again, the teacher told him to stop. Finally, when the kid started poking the teacher with the yardstick, the teacher had had enough. He took the yardstick from the kid and began chastising him. “That’s it, I’ve had enough of your disruptions!” he yelled. “What are you even measuring with that?!” The kid looked up at him with a smirk on his face, “Your patience, sir.”
Well, not so much a joke as it is an illustration. That kid is not unlike most kids, always coming up with new and clever ways to test the patience of the adults around them. It’s a child’s prerogative, one might even say. Just as it is the adult’s prerogative to set boundaries and establish rules in a child’s life which are at the root of their patience being tested. Boundaries and rules create order and children need order to grow and thrive. For the sake of the other kids in the classroom, you can’t allow the one kid to be such a disruption. But kids don’t get this or they get it and simply don’t care. It’s far more FUN being a disruption than it is not being a disruption and what kid wants to sacrifice fun for good order?! FUN has priority over all things in a child’s life!
Hearing the familiar story of Jesus’ birth I can’t help but hear striking similarities between that disruptive kid and God himself. Everything in the story conveys just how disruptive God can be. Believe it or not, our God can be just as disruptive as that snotty little kid with his yardstick! Our God is not only a God of order but also a God of disruption as well. Just consider the elements of the Christmas story. For reasons only known to him, our God decided one day to come to us in the form of a person. And not just a person but a newborn person. In order to do that, He had to first be conceived within a woman. But being who He is, without a beginning and source, his conception just happened within a virgin woman. That’s Disruption #1. Mary neither chose nor acted in a way that would have allowed for such conception to occur. Okay, so God disrupted the lives of Mary and Joseph to come into being. Mary’s miraculous conception was the first of several disruptions though. During Mary’s pregnancy, the Emperor decided, out of the blue, to take a census of all the people in his empire. The first time this had ever been done! Surely God had a hand in that decision. Well, it dragged Mary and Joseph out of Nazareth into Bethlehem. That’s Disruption #2. While in Bethlehem and far away from the comforts of her own home, God caused Mary to go into labor and give birth to Jesus. Disruption #3. As if the timing of it wasn’t awkward enough, God filled all the inns in town so that Mary had to give birth in a stable behind an inn. Disruption #4. Meanwhile, God appeared to shepherds in the fields and told them of the birth of Jesus and to go and see the child in the manger. Disruption #5. Again, the shepherds didn’t choose to be thrown into the middle of this unfolding drama but God chose them regardless. We know that God would then go on to disrupt the lives of the wise men with Jesus’ birth but that isn’t in our reading for today. Not to mention the disruption Jesus’ birth has on Herod and all the chief priests and scribes of the day! Clearly, our God is a disruptive God, on par with any snotty kid in the classroom.
And we’re to somehow celebrate this behavior of God’s each year as we gather to celebrate Christmas? Yes, of course we are! What a gift we have received because of God’s disruptiveness! If God hadn’t disrupted the lives of so many people, we wouldn’t have received the greatest gift the world has ever known, Jesus Christ. We wouldn’t have received God’s pure love and grace and mercy. We wouldn’t have been reconciled before God for our sin and unbelief. Thank God He is a God of disruption! Because of Jesus, we know how to love one another as we ought to love one another: with genuine compassion and sacrifice. Jesus heals us of our sickness and frees us from the power of fear and doubt. We no longer have to be afraid of what lies ahead. God is with us in whatever lies ahead…strengthening us, encouraging us, empowering us. There is nothing we can’t do with God by our side. Jesus is with us, loving us and guiding us. And all because God chose to disrupt the lives of so many people. Perhaps disruption is less about testing patience as it is about creating new opportunities and new growth. Perhaps the disruptiveness of the kids among us is good after all! (shhh…don’t tell them that!)
As we go about celebrating Christmas, let us rejoice in our disruptive God. Thank God He disrupted our lives and the lives of so many people. May He continue to do so this season and in the seasons to come. Heaven knows our lives are only better because of his disruption. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.