Study Guide: Christmas Eve 2017

Sunday December 24, 2017 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

For most of us the Christmas story is a religious story that has become predictable over the years. But to its 1st century audience the Christmas story was anything but religious and predictable. In this Christmas Eve sermon Greg shares, how the Christmas story was irreligious and unexpected to its original audience and how if we look at the story with fresh eyes we will see a God that pursues us relentlessly at all cost, meeting us right where we are.

Extended Summary:

Though to many of us today the Christmas story is a nice, religious, predictable story, it was anything but religious and predictable to the original audience. 1st century Jewish people thought the Messiah would be born like a king into wealth, in a palace, safe and secure, and surrounded by holy men and scribes of Israel. Instead, the Messiah is born in a manager, surrounded by animals and shepherds. The scribes and holy men of Israel pay baby Jesus no attention and it is the magi who are pagan Zoroastrian astrologers from Persian that go to Him. Rather than being born into security He is forced to flee from King Herod into Egypt. If all this wasn’t enough Jesus’ mother Mary is pregnant outside of wedlock. The stigma of giving birth before marriage would have followed Mary and Jesus all their lives. In fact, we see hints in the gospels that Jesus faced this judgment into adulthood.

This is a shocking story that turns religion on its head. Almost always in religion God, or gods, fit the standards of the religious narrative. So, if an all holy God is coming into the world, shouldn’t His arrival be holy and fit for a king? It should shock us, because it doesn’t fit our standards.

Jesus’ life fits the pattern of His birth. The Messiah was expected to be supported by the religious establishment. Instead, the religious establishment sets themselves up as opponents of Jesus. Rather than being at home with the religious powers of His day, Jesus is found hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors. This is not what you would expect from the man who claims to be the Jewish Messiah. This pattern climaxes on the cross, with Jesus looking like a God forsaken criminal, becoming our sin, dying a horrifying death.

This is one of the ways we know the story is true. It is utterly shocking. It is not the story that the disciples would make up, nor is a story long, long ago and far, far away, but rather recent.

This story reveals God’s heart to us. He doesn’t look away from our sin. He came an infinite distance to be near to us. With humility, He is born, lives, and dies in irreligious circumstances to be near us.

God, as revealed in the Christmas story, is a God who dives into our mess, unafraid, relentlessly pursuing us. His holiness does not keep Him away from us, but drives Him to us. If there was any doubt for you, the Christmas story should settle it, nothing puts you outside of God’s love.

God is beautifully anti-religion and breaks down all the walls and boundaries that keep us from Him. He graciously meets us where we are to call us into a relationship that lasts forever.

Reflection Questions: