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Posted: January 3, 2013 9:04 p.m.

Scharf: Finding God in the strangest places

They say you find God in the strangest places. Well, the story of Christmas proves it. Read Luke 2. Even though the text starts in the Emperor's palace of the most powerful nation on earth, when "Caesar Augustus issued a decree," and it passes through every place of power and beauty you can imagine from the Governor's mansion of Quirinius to every corner of the known world - we find it settling down in Nazareth, a nothing town. We see the spotlight rest on a poor engaged couple with not enough resources to even secure a decent bed. That's where Luke records God's entrance: "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

There in Bethlehem, not Rome or Jerusalem, in that little town of Bethlehem, that child was born. Remember, when the angel told Mary she was pregnant, he told her who this was - "the Son of the Most High," Immanuel, "God with us." God, in a stable! You find God in the strangest places, lying in a manger.

Ponder that. The one who moves heaven and earth, who keeps the seas in their shores and the stars in the sky, God - in a manger. The indescribable, incomprehensible, invincible, irresistible, God - lying there, not even able to hold up his own head, cradled in the arms of a teenager, and resting in the animals' feed trough.

You find God in the strangest places. So you have to ask, "Why?"

Look at the answer the angel gave to that question in verse 12. Why? "This will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." That's the sign of your Lord entering our world.

Don't miss this. We might expect the sign of God's entrance to be thunder claps and lightning blasts, trumpets and timpani, shining and shimmering. You see, we understand that God is big. We get that God is powerful. Just look around. Nature tells us that. Our hearts join right in telling us loud and clear that he's way bigger than us. Our consciences remind us that every selfish thought we have is stolen glory, every failure to love is a slap in the face of the one who is love, every imperfection insults the perfect. We get that God's glory is so far beyond us that we don't deserve to be in his presence. We can't even see him and live. Everyone with their eyes even open a crack to this universe gets that.

Everyone. Islam shouts "Alluakbar" - meaning "God is great." Well of course he is. We all know that. But the sign, the sign that was so important that angel messengers were sent to earth so we could know it - the sign of our God's entering humanity to keep his promise was not that God was great - but that he became small. And he entered with more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have crushed him.

Why? You find God in such a strange place only because he came for a purpose - to die. The angel told the shepherds: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you."

A Savior, a substitute, the one who would take our sin and feel our pain and suffer for our mistakes. To do that - he humbled himself. God became small to make us big, to make us great, to make us eternal. Thank God that you find him in the strangest places, because from that manger, he went to an even stranger place for God - the cross. That baby born in Bethlehem grew into that man. And on that cross we see our sins paid for, our heavenly home prepared, our eternity guaranteed.

And so those angels went to tell the shepherds, went to announce something so lowly no one would have noticed had those angels not appeared. So God is in another strange place, his representatives in a shepherd's field, not the king's court or the city center - the message goes to some third-shift-working field hands - shepherds, all so that the news could get to you and me. And right now you are reading this message because it has. You are here because those shepherds told about "all that they had heard and seen which was just as they had been told" by those angels. You are here because that message has entered your heart.

Think about that. That could be the strangest place to find God, right? Our hearts. Remember how the Bible describes human hearts by nature? Genesis 6:5: "only evil all the time" - our selfish, sinful, sorrowing hearts.

Not only did God enter our world through the womb of that young girl. He enters our hearts through his word, and he makes that strange place (your heart) beautiful, which is why we also find God in that last "strange place" we'll talk about today - your lives.

As astounding as it was to think that God took flesh, it's almost more surprising to see that now he shows himself through you, through me. But he does, doesn't he?


Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

 

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