I spend much of my time talking with people about their faith. One of the things that comes up in conversation when talking about church or faith is how to deepen ones faith — to have a stronger connection with God.
What do you think I tell them to do?
Go to church.
I say to them over the years I have come to know many things — the most important thing I can tell anyone about how to grow stronger in their faith is to be a part of the church and not only on a Sunday morning.
Sunday’s is where we are fed, we come together as a community and we share in a meal, we sing together, pray together learn together and then we are sent out into the world together.
But I also think that we take our Sunday experience and extend that in other ministries, like Bible Studies, fellowship events, youth group, choir, even the property committee, or finance committee. All these things are not only important to make the church run, but they help deepen our faith.
But I have realized something else. Church is not the only place God wants us to be.
I know this because the announcement of the birth of Jesus did not happen in a church.
The word of God didn’t go to church. The angel’s announcement of the fulfillment of prophecy did not go to the Church. It went to the shepherds living in the fields.
The word of God came to John in the wilderness not in his father Zechariah’s office in the Church.
The last place Jesus is going to show up on Christmas Eve is in a church.
Well, let me rephrase that. Is God present in church with us? Yes
Is Jesus present with us in the bread and the wine at communion? Yes
Is the Holy Spirit present in this place, leading us and guiding us? Yes
Jesus is in the fields of the isolated, the disenfranchised and the forgotten,
Jesus is in our own painful places of spiritual wilderness, because God speaks the good news of Christ’s coming there.
God brings great joy to those who need it.
And God does even more…..God does the Unexpected
Luke Says: “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” (Luke 2:8-9).
Church was not even a place where Shepherds could go because their jobs would basically prohibit them from observing the Sabbath which was very important.
So what happened? The unexpected.
God sent angels to the shepherds.
So what does this tell us?
When we give up on the church, or even in many ways, when we give up on God. Our lives change because of what we do. We are promised by God that God will always be there for us.
God does not give up on us.
We know this because God sends angels to people who have given up on God. How would you respond to God sending angels to you when you’d given up on God?
God knows our lives are not easy. God knows that we have may things to do and we have many barriers that keep us away from the church. But when we run from God, God is running after us hoping and praying that we will choose to come back to him.
God comes in Jesus, God comes as the most innocent, cutest, helpless thing possible, as “a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). Jesus is born like any other baby, except Jesus is born on the road and laid in a feeding trough.
Jesus is born among the lowly and the poor.
And Luke gives no hint that Jesus’ Birth is anything special: there is no angel over the stable because the angels are over in the field with the shepherds. There are no kings, princess or governors at the Birth – the wise men haven’t even come yet. Because Jesus comes in the unexpected.
God could of stayed up in heaven and watched over us and let us fend for ourselves. But instead God chooses to be with us, to help us, to love us, to comfort us, to forgive us in the only way possible. To send his one and only Son into the world, to give us a message of Grace and truth into our lives and then to give his son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
We continue to look at all the places in this world where God is….all the dark places where God brings the light. Not only light to the world, but light in the dark places of our lives because God loves us and promises to always be with us.
Listen to the full sermon below.