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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - News Worth Celebrating

James Meehan - News Worth Celebrating

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    James Meehan - News Worth Celebrating
TOPICS: Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas is just ahead of us, and has been said by poets and songwriters more wise than I am. It is the most wonderful time of the year. If you are excited for Christmas season, you are not alone because literally like right now, across the globe, people from every corner of the world are preparing for the holiday season. Now, maybe for you, the thing you're most excited about is the fact that you are about to be out of school for an extended period of time. Others of you, maybe you are so excited about the Christmas music that you have been playing it since August. And there is no shame in your game. Others of you, you're ready to just be all cozied up with a cup of hot chocolate watching your favorite Christmas movies. Maybe it's "Buddy The Elf". Maybe it's "The Nightmare Before Christmas".

I personally love that one. Maybe you like the Christmas classics like the "Christmas Story", maybe "Home Alone" one or two, not three or four, anything that comes after that because those are straight garbage. Or maybe like me you understand that the greatest Christmas movie of all time is "Die Hard" followed closely by "Rocky Four" because in "Rocky Four", Rocky Balboa brings down communism on Christmas Day. Is there anything more celebratory than that? So we've all got our weird different Christmas traditions and things that we're looking forward to. I still remember in my family growing up every year, we would get like different movies in each of my siblings stockings and we would movie marathon the entire day and it was a blast. The year that most stands out to me is the year that my older sister got all of "Glee" season one on DVD.

Now, you may not be familiar with the show but it was about a high school show choir. It's kind of like high school the musical, the series. But it was like before that. And I am not at all embarrassed to admit that my entire family, me included, spent like 10 hours on the couch that day watching "Glee" season one. And then we got up and did the same thing for another 10 hours the day after Christmas until we finished the entirety of it and it was an absolute blast. Now that may be different from your family and that's totally okay. We love the fact that we all get to celebrate the holiday season in a different way. But what we wanna do as we near Christmas here in Switch over the next couple of weeks is get to the heart of why we celebrate Christmas. Because there's lots of fun different little things that we may like to prioritize or emphasize, but there's one foundational thing that is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

And yes, it is that Jesus is the reason for the season but we wanna go beyond the cliche and really wrap our minds around the truth of what happened on that first Christmas 2000 years ago. Because while Christmas has become a season of celebration for us in our modern world, 2000 years ago on that first Christmas night, it was really a time of frustration for the Jewish people. You see, the Jewish people were God's chosen people. It was this nation that God said he would be their God and they would be his people. God told them that he would bless the entire world through them, that he would bring the Messiah, the savior king of the world to them, to rescue them from their enemies and restore justice to the world. That's what they expected. But reality was very different than that.

And the thing that we've gotta understand is that for these Jewish people, these expectations weren't like naive, wishful thinking. Their expectations were based on the promises of God revealed in the scriptures. But instead of being blessed by God, they were oppressed by Rome. Instead of being ruled by the Messiah, they were ruled by a manipulative king named Herod. Instead of experiencing peace on earth and a goodness that was everywhere, they were dealing with the fact that the religious system was completely corrupt, that the priests were a bunch of crooks, that instead of representing the goodness of God to others, they were taking advantage of them to put more money in their own pockets. They were doing whatever they could to stay on Rome's good side, even if that meant ripping off the very people they were meant to serve. Things were not at all going the way they expected.

And if we zoom in even further to the couple of Mary and Joseph, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Joseph, who would be Jesus' earthly father, their relationship wasn't going the way either of them expected. Because on that first Christmas night, they would have arrived in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. Mary was nine months pregnant with Jesus in her womb. And guess what? Joseph was not the father. This is not how they expected things would go. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the inn is full and so the only place they're able to stay is a barn. Not like a barn dominion you might see on Pinterest that's all like cute and cozy. It's literally a stable for animals. That's where they are on that very first Christmas. Things were not going the way that people thought they would. You see, what has become a time of celebration for us was a time of great frustration for them.

Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever experienced the frustration of things not going the way you wanted them to? Maybe for you, you are dealing with really significant mental health challenges that you are just desperate for joy in your life but you are overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. Or maybe you're dealing with the difficulty of being a child of divorce and trying to navigate the complicated dynamics that are being with your mom sometimes and your dad other times. Or maybe you had a really close relationship come to an abrupt end with a friend or maybe somebody that you were dating and it's just completely caught you off guard to the point where you are grieving this part of your life that had been so significant just weeks ago. And now it's completely gone. Or maybe for you, you find yourself not really able to pinpoint the moment where things went wrong but just feeling with the weight of another year coming to an end and so many of the dreams you have still being unfulfilled.

Have you ever felt like that? Wanting to celebrate but instead just being overwhelmed with frustration? So what is frustration and where does it come from? Well, we would suggest that frustration is the result of reality not meeting our expectations, right? We have this idea of what reality is going to be like and it's cool and it's awesome and it's exciting but then it ends up not being that. Reality is way down here, our expectations are up here, and everything in between gets overcome with frustration. I still remember my middle school years as a time of immense frustration for me. I left elementary school like genuinely thinking middle school was gonna be the best thing ever.

So many of my friends from elementary school were going to the same school as me. It was gonna be the first year I would be riding the bus which just seemed amazing. I was so excited to go out for the football team and for baseball and to meet new people. And let me tell you something. Middle school for me was awful. Like, nothing at all, even close to living up to my expectations. Like, I didn't make it very long on the football team 'cause I was not athletic, so many of the friends I had in elementary school I lost when I went to middle school because all of us were trying to find our place and in our efforts to do so, we forgot who we were and just did whatever we could to fit in with the cool kids.

So many of the things that I thought would be really amazing and special, like dating for the first time ended up awful. Like, my first real girlfriend ended up cheating on me with one of my best friends. And after that relationship ended, I just had no idea how to navigate relationships in a healthy way. And so I made all sorts of terrible decisions. I remember going through the phase that I guess is still a thing for a lot of middle school guys where we feel this need to just grow out our hair and like some of y'all can pull it off. Like, some of you in my small group, you guys look good. You're doing well. I did not pull it off. I looked like an absolute dork. Like, looking back on those middle school years, it was kind of bad.

It was really frustrating because that was also a time in my life where my faith fell apart completely. Where my family was collapsing around me. And where I was just desperate for something to change. Because reality was not at all meeting my expectations. And so the result was a whole lot of frustration. But there's some really good news that I want you to know. That when Jesus shows up, everything changes. When Jesus shows up, everything changes because when Jesus showed up for me, he changed my story so that frustration didn't have the final say. On that first Christmas 2000 years ago when Jesus showed up, everything changed. The entire course of human history was redirected into a much better place. And I believe that the same Jesus who showed up in my life wants to show up in your life. But you don't just have to take my word for it. I actually want you to hear from a fellow Switch student named Izzy. Who when she was at her lowest moment, Jesus showed up to change everything.

When Jesus shows up, everything changes. Izzy felt unnoticed, unloved, and undervalued. She was questioning how could a good and loving God allow this stuff to happen? But then at just the right time, when all hope seemed lost, Jesus showed up and saved her life miraculously. On that first Christmas 2000 years ago, the Jewish people probably felt unnoticed, unloved, and undervalued. They probably felt like God had forgotten them. Many of them were I'm sure questioning how God could allow this to happen to them. His chosen people, right? Like imagine Mary and Joseph as they're preparing to be married. Mary hearing the news that she's going to give birth to the savior of the world, which sounds awesome to us at first, but dude, she's not crazy. Like she understands that she's about to have to tell her fiance, "Hey, just so you know, I'm pregnant. I didn't cheat on you though, it was the Holy Spirit putting the baby in my belly miraculously".

Yeah, she knew that Joseph wasn't an idiot. That that was gonna be really difficult news for him to hear. And Joseph being like most of us assumed that she was making it up. And so he put a plan in place to end their engagement and not end up going through with the marriage. But God sent an angel, a heavenly messenger to tell Joseph the truth of what had taken place. Here's what we read in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel. "That as Joseph is considering this, ending things with Mary, an angel of the Lord appeared to 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 and she will have a son. And you are to name him Jesus. For he will save his people from their sins.'"

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet. Look, the virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God is with us. This angel came to tell Joseph that, hey, Mary is actually telling the truth. That she's gonna have a son and you are to name him Jesus which means God saves. This son will be Emmanuel, which means God with us. This event is known as the incarnation. It is the belief that God became a human being in the person of Jesus. It is this event. This is the reason why we celebrate Christmas now 2000 years later. In Luke's Gospel, we read another heavenly messenger and angel bringing the good news of the incarnation to a group of shepherds and a nearby field.

Starting in Verse Nine, here's what we read. "That suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them. And the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. These shepherds were terrified but the angel reassured them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people because the Savior, yes, the Messiah the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize him by this sign. You're gonna find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.'" That's how God chose to enter the world. As a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth lying in a manger. Why do we celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus showed us that God did not forget about his people. That God had not forgotten the promises he had made. Jesus shows us that at just the right time, God stepped into history to rescue his people not just from Rome and Herod, but from sin and death.

You see, frustration is the result of reality not meeting our expectations. But celebration? Celebration is the result of reality exceeding our expectations. Because when Jesus shows up, everything changes. What he did for Izzy, he can do for you too. What he did for the world, he wants to do for you. This is why we celebrate Christmas. Because it signifies the moment in time when God became one of us so that we could become one with him. This is the good news of the gospel, that God's love is for everyone, everywhere all of the time. And he will stop at nothing to bring us home to him. So how do we respond to this good news? I wanna give you two suggestions.

The first thing we do is we celebrate the good news of Jesus because when heaven throws a party, we probably should too. And heaven threw a party at the birth of Jesus. We read accounts of literally a vast host of angels celebrating and praising God because of the birth of the savior. But maybe there are some of you right now who are having a really hard time seeing how God is working in your life. I wanna suggest to you the simple practice of taking time at the end of every day, maybe in a journal or in a note on your phone, and writing down three things that you're grateful for. It can be something as small as like a good cup of coffee or it can be as big as that person you've been praying for for months showing up to church and being open to the things of God. It could be really simple like getting a good grade on your test or it can be really, really extravagant. Like all of these things you've been hoping for coming together at just the right time.

The cool thing is, is that when you engage in this habit, you're gonna have a moment to celebrate the good things that God did that day and you're actually gonna train yourself to be able to see how God is working in your life in all of the days moving forward. Because if we want to respond well to the good news of Jesus, first we've got to actually celebrate what heaven is celebrating. And the second thing that we're gonna do is we're going to share the good news. We're going to share the good news. Because the good news of Jesus is for everybody, everywhere, all of the time. It's not something we're meant to keep to ourselves, but we're meant to share with others. And if you keep reading in that account in Luke, we read about these shepherds who hear the good news, celebrate the good news, and then go and tell everybody about what they saw in Jesus. And tons of people are astonished at the story they tell about the God of heaven entering history in the person of Jesus.

Now, we've talked about this before in Switch but I just wanna remind you that sharing the good news doesn't just mean telling people about what Jesus has done in your life. It also means showing them how Jesus has changed your life by loving others and doing good. And what better time of year to share the good news of Jesus by not just looking for what we can get this Christmas season, but actually looking for opportunities to give to those who are in need. Because when Jesus shows up, everything changes. He changed my life. He changed Izzy's life. He changed the entire history of the world. And he can change your life too. Because when he shows up, everything changes.

This is why we celebrate Christmas. Because Jesus changed the world. And I need you to understand that God has not forgotten you. You might be in the middle of a season of frustration. But I believe that just like it was with the Jewish people, that God is preparing you for a time of celebration. And our hope is that this Christmas season, you would have so many reasons to celebrate. And maybe you can just start by celebrating the fact that God loved you enough to become a human being, willingly died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice so that we could be saved from our sins. The thing to remember is that when God shows up, it often won't be the way we expect and it often won't be when we expect. But if God always met our expectations, then he would never be able to exceed them. So let God exceed your expectations. Choose to join with God in all of the things worth celebrating this Christmas season.

Heavenly Father, we come before you right now and we are just so grateful that you loved us enough to become a person named Jesus. To live for us, to die for us, to rise again and invite us into your kingdom. God, I pray that we would look for all the ways you are moving in our lives and in the lives of others this Christmas season. That we would celebrate with you. That we would share the good news. It's in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Now maybe there's others of you right now who you're hearing about this good news of Jesus. And for you, it's news because it's something that maybe you've never really heard before or you've heard it but you've never actually thought about it enough to take it seriously. I hope you believe and understand that it's not just any kind of news but it's really good news. Because when Jesus shows up, everything changes for the better. Because Jesus came to show us the most important truth any of us can ever understand, that we are loved by God, the creator of the universe. He loved us enough that when he created us, he created us to be in a relationship with him. He gave us the ability to choose, but we took that ability and we used it for our own selfish ends.

And instead of choosing to love God and love others, we chose to disobey God and hurt others. That created sin, this disease of selfishness that separates us from God. But that's not the end of the story because God loves us enough that he was willing to enter the sinfulness of our world as a perfect savior to bring us back to him. This is why the cross matters. Because on the cross, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice, taking our sin and the consequences of our wrongdoing on himself so that we could be forgiven. And then on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead so that anybody who puts their trust in him could be saved. They could be made new, they could be made whole, and they could be reunited with their purpose, reunited with God, and become people who make a difference.

And maybe that's why you're here today. To respond to the good news of Jesus by putting your trust in him, the savior of the world. If that's you and you want to begin a relationship with him to turn from your sin, to turn towards him, then on the count of three, I want you to type in the chat. Jesus, I give you my life. One, two, it's time. Three, type it in the chat. Jesus, I give you my life. If you are making that decision, that's the most important choice you could make in your entire life. Because in that moment, you become a new person no longer defined by the sin of your past, but defined by God's love for you. And as people are making that choice, saying yes to Jesus today, here at Switch, we're gonna pray together because here, we are a family. So altogether, out loud, repeat after me.

Heavenly Father, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace. I need your mercy. In Jesus' name, amen and amen and amen.

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