Christmas Is Not Your Birthday Part 2: Expect A Miracle
On Sunday 6th December at our morning services, we continued our series Christmas Is Not Your Birthday with the topic 'Expect A Miracle'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
You are not able to listen to the talk this week, but you can read a summary of it here.
Talk Notes and Summary
When I was in my early teens, my Dad bought me a second-hand 10-speed bike for Christmas. It sat up on a workbench in our garden shed for a month or so before the big day arrived and I can remember looking at it in awe and wonder — not to mention mounting excitement — as the days ticked by. Finally, on a frosty Christmas morning, Dad handed it over and I got to ride it. The excitement was incredible. To be honest I was a late starter with bike riding and I felt a bit nervous and wobbly at first… but it was the best present I’d ever had and I still remember it so well.
I wonder if you can remember that sense of child-like excitement over Christmas. Do you still feel the same excitement? Where does our sense of excitement about Christmas come from these days? Is it still about the presents for us? Or do we get excited about giving presents and seeing that same child-like excitement in the eyes of our children or grandchildren, or in the eyes of our friends and family? Is it from the thought of simply being together with friends and family? Is it to do with a chance to catch a break from our routine or from the knowledge we’ll be seeing old friends? Or do we feel no real excitement anymore? Has Christmas never been really exciting for you – or maybe it’s just become for us an event that society does once a year, where we’re encouraged to “spend, spend, spend” and the magic of Christmas is lost in a blur of food, presents and getting things done?
I want to encourage us all to be excited again this year about the miraculous nature of Christmas. From a miraculous virgin birth, to the miraculous thing that happens every year at this time – where not just presents but the world itself gets wrapped up in a conspiracy of love we call “The Christmas Spirit”. Where believers and non-believers alike are kinder, more loving, more hospitable, more likely to forgive old hurts and overlook new ones.
What would happen if we set our sights on this – that for the whole of 2016, even the whole rest of our lives, we could carry around with us that “Christmas Spirit” – which in truth is God’s Spirit. A spirit of love towards our fellow man, born of God’s love for us. Wouldn’t that be exciting? Perhaps you think it’d take a miracle. Then again, with God, shouldn’t we expect a miracle?
The Christmas story tells us that the baby Jesus was born in a manger, inside an empty stable because the innkeeper had no rooms to offer Mary and Joseph. Humble beginnings indeed — but when we know more of Jesus’s story, we know that from those humble beginnings and the innkeeper’s humble offering, we could expect the miracles to start happening. The bible is full of them: how Jesus took water and made it into wine. How he mixed up some mud, and healed the blind. How he took a few fish and a couple of loaves and fed all the people, though they came in their droves.
Notice a common thread in these stories. In each case, something that was really not enough became more than enough with God’s blessing. About the feeding of the five thousand… the boy who had the fish and loaves had little to offer. When he gave it for Jesus to bless, it was not enough. Jesus blessed it when it was not enough. Then he broke it and there was an abundance, there was more than enough. You understand then, that sometimes the miracle is in the breaking. That which is not enough – this set of circumstances, that self-dependence, this person’s definition of success or happiness… might need to be broken in order for the miracles to happen. Sometimes things… sometimes people…. need to be offered up and broken, for them to become all that God wants them to be.
So what little bit do you have to offer God? What needs something miraculous to happen in your life? Well, give God something to work with. A little bit of forgiveness towards the person that hurt you. A little bit of time to listen to the lonely person, or the nutty relative, or the boring one that everyone avoids. Maybe a little kindness to the person who has very little. Maybe a smile or a hug or just being there for someone. Maybe, like me, you wish you could fix things for people and feel helpless if you can’t – but maybe just giving a little sympathy and listening can help, maybe you can pray with them then and there or for them later. Just being “for” someone can be palpable and make a big difference.
What about your understanding of God? Can you give something to work with? A little time each day to read the bible, or a devotional? A resolution to come to church every week? Maybe you’re not a Christian but you’re impressed with the human character of Jesus and his teaching – so maybe you could do as we all should do and try to live out – a little – the teaching even if you’re not convinced about the teacher. Or maybe you find yourself at rock bottom and you have absolutely nothing to give except this – admit you’re failing, turn over control to God and ask him to take charge.
This coming Christmas morning, remember it’s not your birthday – but it’s the day we remember Jesus’s birthday. So in amongst all that’s going on for you this Christmas morning, I invite you to take a quiet moment and just in your head and in your heart, give him a little something… your birthday gift to him… and expect a miracle.
As a church here at EBC we love to invite people – and as you read this I want to invite you to take part in this conspiracy… where we all decide to give God a little something to work with – be it a particular area of your life you need help in, or a specific relationship that troubles you, be it a friend or relative in need, or someone you don’t even know in need, or a flaw in your own character, a desire to know more of God or getting involved in some of the good works we do as a church (Refresh, Storehouse, events here at EBC)… where we all decide to give God a little to work with on these things… and where we all start expecting a miracle to happen.
Maybe God just needs a little humility from you. Maybe an offering of your time. Maybe giving some forgiveness, or some kindness to somebody. Maybe a commitment to treat others like you want to be treated, to try to love people even if they don’t love you. Maybe that’s all God needs, that little leap of faith, to make the miracle happen for you and through you.
And miracles still happen. Contrary to popular belief, miracles still happen. A disabled boy in Sierra Leone, our own Abs Dumbuya, who started out crawling to school becomes a Doctor of Engineering and sets up a charity to give other disabled people an education and a way out of poverty. To them, that’s a miracle. To me too, actually!
A young family in Bracknell with a broken fridge and not even a kitchen table to their name get the table and a brand new fridge free and delivered to their door by EBC’s Storehouse team. To them, that’s a miracle. A lonely lady with a dying relative and no-one to talk to finds somewhere to go — Refresh café — where she’s listened to and comforted by people she doesn’t even know – that’s a miracle.
God doesn’t need much to work with. Let’s conspire together to each bring him a little gift of something to work with this Christmas… and expect a miracle not just this Christmas, but every day, in ourselves, in our church, in our families, in our community and all the lives we touch together around the world.
I heard a story once about a life transformed by praying this prayer: “O Lord, make my heart a manger where the Christ child can be born.” Many of us need to pray that prayer this Christmas. Perhaps we’ve been “religious” and no doubt many of us do believe in Jesus. But for some of us, that belief has never led to a moment of personal commitment. And for others, you may never have believed. But you know what? Bring what you have to offer. So you may be a late starter. You may feel a little bit wobbly at first. But just give God a little something to work with and expect in return the best present you ever had. Give him a little something to work with… and expect a miracle.
Questions and Reflections (to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. What do you have to offer God as a gift – something to work with - this Christmas morning?
2. Is there something in your life that might need breaking?
3. Do you believe that miracles can still happen? What might your part be in becoming part of the miracle that someone needs?
4. Have you ever recognised God as sovereign and offered your life over to his will?
5. Do you think that God’s plans for your life and how it should be led might be better than your own ideas?
6. On Christmas day, will you pray this prayer: “O Lord, make my heart a manger for the Christ child to be born.”?
7. What miracle(s) are you expecting to happen in your life? Are you giving God anything to work with?