Something Sweet out of the Ingredients of Sadness

2016 Messages

Todd shares that the birth recount of Christ was not something sweet and picturesque as we make it out to be. Instead, it's a story of redemption through tough situations. Todd uses illustrations of broken lives in relation to ingredients of God intervention, when He makes all things right and good.

Todd WagnerDec 24, 2016Luke 2:8-13

Brian: My whole life was about living to party. I would get the paycheck on Friday, and it would be spent come Monday.

Jason: Our marriage really began to deteriorate. Instead of communicating and talking with one another, we just kind of ignored it and hoped that things would get better, and we found ourselves in some really dark places.

Holly: I was a newlywed, and we had just moved to Dallas when I got diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had to go through seven months of chemotherapy treatment, and at the end of that I was declared cancer free, but then two years later, just this past Christmas Eve, actually, I got re-diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and had to go through treatment all over again.

Jason: I filed for divorce. I thought we had reached the end of our marriage.

Sandy: Here I found myself a single mom. I didn't think I had anything left, and I just felt hopeless.

Brian: All of my relationships had fallen apart, and it seemed like I had nothing left in life. I turned to the thing I had learned to turn to all of my life, you know, drugs and alcohol. Specifically, right then it was cocaine. My life deteriorated to a point where in a dope deal gone horribly wrong, I ended up killing my dope dealer. Darkest day of my life.

"Joy to the world." Right? "Let heaven and nature sing." That's the idea of that song. It doesn't seem like earth is singing. It seems like there's a lot going on here that is not as it should be. Those are friends of mine. Those are individuals who now are part of this body. In the midst of the world they found themselves, it didn't look like a king had come and conquered that which needed to be conquered. It seems like there's a whole lot of chaos and trouble still going on in the world around us and often in the world because of us.

It's interesting. That song "Joy to the World" that we sang, declaring the hope we have, is a song that was written hundreds of years ago by a guy named Isaac Watts who was sick and tired of the songs they were singing. His dad said, "Why don't you do something about it?" So he wrote this radical new form of celebratory worship called hymns.

It's ironic. When they were introduced, they were considered this irreverent expression of the description of who Christ is, and now when we don't sing those hymns we're like, "You have to sing those things that the church has always sung." Not always. That song was written by Isaac Watts as a song not to celebrate the Christmas past.

It was to celebrate the Christmas that was to come. It's a song that really talks about what's called the second Christmas, or the second advent. Advent is just a word that means to come. We celebrate an advent calendar, that Christ is coming, as we train ourselves every year to look forward to that moment in history when Jesus showed up.

Well, when Jesus showed up, he came to bring hope to the world, but as we've just observed in the stories of three friends, it doesn't look like hope has made its way all the way through. Maybe that's your experience tonight. Maybe you're here and you're wondering, "Where is all this talk of a redemption Jesus was to bring? Where is this talk of this abundant life? I know nothing of it."

I'm going to tell you, if you know nothing of the abundant life Christ has come to bring it's not because Christ is not who he has said, and you need to prepare yourself that he is going to come again and it will be joy to the world that knows him and heaven and the earth will both sing, because he will rid himself of all that is not consistent with his character of goodness and life and he will install what he has always intended, which is his kindness to reign.

But now it's not reigning in this world. In fact, as you look around, it looks like there's still a lot of the same darkness and despair that was there at the very first Christmas. Well, it's us who will look back at that first Christmas and understand it, that God means to be the means through which joy comes to the world now. There's joy that's coming, because joy did enter in to redeem us from being a slave to the world as it is now.

Let me say that again. There is joy coming, because joy did come into the world in order to help us escape being in bondage to the sin that is in the world now that creates murder, dissolution of family, and even brings death to us in an untimely way. What I want you to understand as we gather tonight is not that Christmas was some sweet little moment.

It's so funny. We sometimes think of that. We'll sing a song in just a moment. "Silent night…all is calm, all is bright." While that might have been immediately true around the immediate faith family that was Joseph and Mary as they reflected upon the miracle of the Christ child, understanding the full impact of that story, that's not really the way the story went. Let me just tap "pause" for a second.

The Wagner family, when we get together, we like to celebrate and just enjoy simple pleasures. One of the simple pleasures you can enjoy when you're in Texas is Blue Bell ice cream, at least now once again. When we get together, we don't just get out the Homemade Vanilla or the Dutch Chocolate. We get the Blue Bell. I raid Albertson's and Tom Thumb and wherever has any Blue Bell, especially what's on sale, and we stock up. We get all kinds of Blue Bell, and we have at it.

We don't just have Blue Bell. We have some hot fudge sauce that has been passed around my family for a while. I make it, and when people go, "Hey, listen. I love Blue Bell. Don't mess around with it by putting your hot fudge on it," I go, "No, no. Try my hot fudge." Then when they taste my hot fudge they go, "Wow! Don't mess up your hot fudge with a little Blue Bell. Give me more of that." It's that good.

I make it, and I use ingredients that in and of themselves are great. I mean, this is basically my hot fudge. It's some Nestlé's semisweet chocolate morsels, it's a bunch of powdered sugar, it's a couple of sticks of butter, and then a few other things that if I told you I'd have to kill you, so I can't tell you. Bottom line, it's a simple recipe made up of a lot of really good stuff. You put this around a little bit of heat, and if it doesn't taste sweet, something is really wrong with you.

It ought to taste good. Right? I mean, you take these ingredients, and you can make something really good with it. It's like the other day I went to breakfast with my son-in-law, and we asked for this thing that had a combination of waffles, fried chicken, maple syrup, whipped cream, strawberries, and éclairs. It comes out, and it's like who can't make something good with those as your basic elements? That's a breakfast.

A year ago, I was in Omaha with one of my boys, and we went to Stella's. I don't know if you've ever been to Stella's, but Stella's has this thing they put together that has pounds of 100 percent sirloin beef, some cheese, about 24 slices of bacon, a bunch of grilled onions and pickles, a few condiments, slapped between a bun. It looks like this. It's called the Stellanator. No kidding. It's one of those food challenges that you can try and knock it out in an hour.

Just so you know, as of June 2015 when I was up there, about 450 people had tried to knock out the Stellanator in an hour. Nineteen had been successful; 420-some odd had not quite made it. Of the 19 who made it, 3 of them were by the same girl, about a 105-pound 24-year-old. Look at this bad boy. The first time she ate that she did it in 15:02, , the second time she did it in 6:40, and the third time she did it in 3:40.9. You're like, "What is she? A tiger?" I don't know.

There's a picture of her, and it's impressive. Molly is her name. Molly wiped out the Stellanator. What's the point of that? I don't know. It just amazed me, so I thought it might amaze you. Secondly, it's like who can't make something amazing out of a bunch of 100 percent sirloin ground beef, a bunch of cheese, and bacon? Who can't do something amazing with a bunch of semisweet morsels and butter and powdered sugar? You give me those ingredients and I'm going to please you.

But that's not the story of Christmas. Christmas is a time of wonder, is it not? It's a time of wonder because the ingredients that are involved around Christmas are not at all… Matthew, chapter 1. This is basically what is going on in that original story. It says, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows…" Check this out. This is right out of the Scripture. "…when His mother Mary had been betrothed [engaged] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit."

That's a train wreck. I want you to think about that. "Hey, Joseph. Do you know that sweet little thing you have your eye on? Hey, that's good. Good choice. I just want to let you know she's going to come with a little bit of baggage, like, nine pounds of it over the next nine months. By the way, his name is Jesus." You're like, "What? You've got to be kidding me!"

The ingredients that went into the Christmas story were not this sweet little put-together setting that all was calm, and all God did was throw a little whipped cream on top of waffles and fried chicken and made it a little sweeter still. It wasn't Blue Bell plus Todd's hot fudge sauce. It was a train wreck. The story of Joseph and Mary was just the beginning of it. This is what God has done.

All throughout this book, God tells stories that basically suggest that this world is always a train wreck unless he gets in the middle of it, but if he gets in the middle of it, he can take a bunch of ingredients that you don't think you can make anything sweet out of, and he just does this amazing work. Hope has come in a way we just can't, frankly, foresee coming or understand. This is basically my observation of a few events you might recognize. If you've been around the Bible very long, you might recognize these stories.

How about this for a group of ingredients? An out-of-control band of jealous brothers (ingredient one) combined with an active hate which ends in human trafficking and slavery. Combine that with a spurned seductress who makes a false accusation of rape in a rage when she is rebuffed. Combine that with an unjust prosecution and a false prison sentence being impugned upon a young man.

It gets worse. Once he's there, he gets a bunch of faithless friends around him who are rescued by his good graces, only to be forgotten by them and then to have decades of loneliness despite his constant faithfulness. All the while, he is surrounded by a famine in the land he lives in and the entire region. You throw those ingredients into a story, and you go "Turn that one around." That's exactly what God did. It's the story of Joseph and his brothers.

God uses that famine, in his kindness, to allow Joseph to be able to interpret a dream the leader had to move him out of this incarceration and false accusation to the second most powerful position in all the kingdom so that those who spurned him and rejected him and left him for dead, in their moment of need, when they go to a land that is sovereign over them and appeal for mercy, there might be one who went before them who knows them and loves them and gives them what they don't deserve.

Does that story sound familiar? That's not just the story of Joseph. It's the story of Jesus, whose brothers rejected him and left him for dead, only to see him ascend to the right hand of power where sovereignty is claimed over all of us, where one day in need of mercy we will find somebody who loves us who is there.

How about this for a couple of ingredients? A terrorizing giant and a blaspheming enemy of God combined with an intimidated, cowardly army underneath a lost and weak king come up against a weak and feckless shepherd boy with a harp and a slingshot. How is that one going to work out? Answer: horribly…unless God is in the middle of the story. I could go on and on.

This whole book is filled with stuff like faithful servants, a megalomaniac, evil coworkers, godless laws imposed upon the land, a setup, a monkey court, a bunch of hungry lions, and then God shows up. When God shows up in destroyed marriages, in the midst of cancer and death, in the middle of murder and incarceration, something can turn. That's what God does. That's what the story of Christmas is. It's the story of God taking a bunch of ingredients that make no sense, and all of a sudden, something beautiful and wonderful happens.

Here's the Christmas story. This is just my take on it. You need to break it out of your sweet little crèche that sits on top of your fireplace, where these lambs come cooing on up and cuddle up against Mary, and she has named them all, and there are donkeys that are well groomed and have never spread manure all over the barn and there's an angel floating over the top and shepherds and wise men come bringing gifts. That's nothing like the biblical account. The biblical account, as I said, starts with an unwanted pregnancy. How do those usually end up?

An unwanted and unexpected pregnancy; an embarrassing social situation; an endless parade of whispers, slanders, and gossip; a call to chastity and faithfulness while you're being suspicious of the unfaithfulness of your betrothed; an oppressive taxation; a ruler who is a murderous maniac and a hopeless egomaniac; an 80-mile journey on a donkey with a woman who is eight to nine months pregnant; a rejection by family upon arrival; an absence of medical help and comfort around the birth; infanticide and murder; a call to leave everything behind in an instant and flee to a foreign land where you know nobody, where you will live for years, only to be brought out to have what is a total of 30 decades of, largely, obscurity and misunderstanding about what God is doing in the midst of all of this.

Do you guys have Advent wreaths in your house? Most of you do. We did when our kids were young. You make a little Advent wreath, and what you do is pull out a cute little lamb on day one and put it up there, and it's so sweet. On day two, you're going to bring some shepherd boys and maybe even a drummer boy in yours or a candle or…oh, that's cute…a little donkey. It looks like Eeyore, and it's all sweet.

That should not be your Advent calendar. If you want to really have a biblical Advent calendar, it would terrorize your children. You ought to bring out this decree to murder everybody under 2. You ought to pull out this oppressive megalomaniac of a ruler who only wants to exalt himself and threaten anybody else who claims to be anything greater than him. You ought to pull out social awkwardness, family discord, the possibility of an abortion, an 80-mile journey with extreme discomfort, darkness on the land, oppression, taxation.

You ought to just be begging for something to turn this Advent calendar around. Then on December 25, hope has come. That's really what Christmas was about. Christmas is about God turning everything around and taking the ingredients of a bunch of crazy, broken lives and making them wonderful again. I really believe it's the reason we love this particular story.

Every year at Christmas I do the same thing. I go and buy the biggest tree I can, a huge tree. I usually have to cut the top off once it's in my house. We love it and decorate it with all kinds of fun ornaments. I always get this guy out, because he reminds me of what I really want to understand Christmas is about. It's a tree that's familiar to all of us, because it comes in the middle of a story where the basic ingredients are a kid who doesn't like himself very much.

I mean, you think about Charlie Brown. Do you think Charlie Brown ever looked in the mirror and went, "God, I like the ingredients that you used to make me. This is something right here. I'm 8 years old. I'm bald. I have one little piece of hair on my head. I can't kick a football if it's still. My dog doesn't even like me." This is a disaster of a life.

He's directing the Christmas play, and nobody respects him. Nobody listens to him. They finally say, "Man, go get us a tree," and he goes to get a tree. Is there a simpler task than that? Only to come back, and this is the tree he gets. This life is filled with despair and darkness. You're like, "This is a train wreck." The reason we love Charlie Brown is Charlie Brown is everyman. We all have stuff in our lives that we look at and go, "God, what ingredients did you use to put this life together? Nice job."

What we need is somebody to come up to us in the midst of our droopy little tree and go, "Hey, Charlie Brown, you need to know what Christmas is all about. It's not about the play and people listen to you. It's not about you liking the way you look in a mirror. It's about the reality of who you are in light of who God is and know that he has done something about that." A Charlie Brown Christmas is about the fact that, as Linus would say, quoting from Luke:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; [he will be] wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Suddenly, at that moment, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, singing "The First Noel" and saying, "In the midst of all of this darkness and hopelessness, God has done something." "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.""God has shown up, and he sees what you have done. You've made a mess of Eden. He comes offering peace."

The angels can't believe the humility of God, that he would go to rescue people who have spurned him, that God would take the ingredients of his holiness and our sinfulness and our rebuffing and rejection of him and our doing what seems right to us, but in the end finding that our way only brings increased death and insecurity, and comes into that, not to top off something sweet but to change something bitter. That's the story of Christmas.

There's an old, old illustration that has been around for a long time that catches a little bit of the wonder. It's just a simple thing. It explains basically that here we are… The problem with this old illustration is it's not really even theologically accurate. It's not like we're this pristine little glass of water that has no defilement to it. There's a reason Jesus was born of a virgin.

It's because if he had come from a son of Adam and a son of Eve, then he would have been made in their likeness, and the likeness of two sinners is a sinner. Jesus wanted to identify with us so he could be a substitute for us, and yet he had to come from a lineage that wasn't exactly like ours, so before Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph came together, she was found to be with child, because this is God placed in the womb of a woman. Fully God, fully man, capable of being tempted by sin, and yet, because he's God, resisting sin.

God was going to make him, Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. What happens is the rest of us are not very righteous ourselves. There is this thing called sin and death in the world that has always existed and that is present. Whether you want to argue with me about imputation and all that different stuff, we know that at some point we bring darkness into the land, and we know that at some point we bring all kinds of trouble into our own lives, and we add sin to this cup of ours, and all the pain and sadness that goes with it.

We're like, "Well, I've added some pretty nasty ingredients, and if there is a holy God, I know whatever he must do with me, it's probably not going to be peace and good will." Gang, I want you to understand something. That's the miracle of Christmas. That's the miracle of Christ having come into the world and wanting to say, "I want to offer you something."

This is the hope, Charlie Brown. This is what makes you want to go, "I don't care what your play looks like. I don't care if your dog doesn't like you. I don't care if you don't like your mirror. There's a God who loves you, and he wants to do something about you, and you need to not just know about him; you need to have a personal interaction with him and invite him into your life. When you invite him into your life, something amazing happens. It changes everything, and he takes that life that is defined by nothing but sin and makes it right again."

You sit and look at that and go, "How does that happen? How does God do that?" Well, this is just some simple chemistry fluke, but what you need to know is there's something more than just some little trick you can do with chemicals that makes that happen. What's amazing is when Christ imputes his righteousness to you, it doesn't matter what you continue to add, because in your sight, you are holy and blameless.

Now listen. If that went down, that's good news. That makes you, in all your "Charlie Brown-ness," go, "There's something here worth singing about," and it makes it all right again. That's Christmas, and that's what we're here to celebrate. It's interesting. The word that is chosen as the Word of the Year by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a word that is interesting to me. I used to wonder, "What do you mean, the Word of the Year?" I used to think the Word of the Year was a bunch of librarians who would get together and go, "What should we define 2016 as?"

That's not the way it works. The way it works now is they go, "What word has entered in at a new level into public discourse like it had never been used before or that had been sought after like no other word that defines the last year?" According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word that was the most looked-up word, the most used and sought-to-be-understood word in all of 2016, was the word surreal. It's interesting, isn't it?

Surreal means an irrational reality. It's almost like a dream, except it's not a dream; it's real. The reason that word became the word of 2016 is because people looked around, and they'd go, "What is going on in Berlin? What is going on in Nice? What happened in Orlando?" It's interesting. One of the other words that was almost the Word of the Year…it was a candidate…is the word coulrophobia. You kind of go, "That's weird that that would almost have been the word for 2016."

When I explain to you what it means, you'll understand it. Coulrophobia is the irrational fear of clowns. We know there was a lot made out of clowns in 2016. Here's the problem. There was not just stuff going on in Nice and Orlando. There were two clowns who ran for president, and people go, "This is surreal. What are we supposed to do at this moment?" I'm not kidding you. People were like, "Come on, man."

Here's the deal. Here's what I want to tell you. What should really be surreal is that in the midst of a world that is still defined by darkness and sin, God has some people who understand the Christmas story (I mean, really understand it), and they begin to live in an irrational way to the rest of the world.

They're moral as the world becomes increasingly immoral. They forgive when other people are driven by hate. They don't put their hope in either political candidate or any political party or any country, for that matter, because their King has come and has rescued them from sin and death. They are people who are defined by song and hope and a commitment to being light in the midst of darkness.

What Jesus is saying is, "If my church is what it should be, the word for the last 2,000 years ought to be, 'That's surreal. Who are these people? What do they know that we don't know? Where is the source of their joy? These people who don't just know of a story but have been affected by it and have been saved from the darkness that all the rest of us are controlled by.'"

If you understand Christmas, if you understand, everyman, Charlie Brown, that there's goodwill from God to men during this season until he comes and judges again, then you can be one of those individuals who brings light into darkness and continues to bring a sense of calm and brightness when all around you is not. Just like the first holy couple, we're called to be a holy people.

Just like Brian who had a murderous life and ingredients that can't be redeemed, and just like Jason and Sandy who had a destroyed marriage that would never be put back together again, and just like Holly who twice was diagnosed with cancer though she tried to live faithfully, beauty can come. That's what Christmas does, Charlie Brown. If you don't have that kind of turnaround story, if you don't have that kind of surrealness in your life, then you might just know about what he can do and not have it been done.

If you're here tonight, we want to tell you we've gathered around this child, and he has given to us what we could never earn, and it is our joy not just to have some sweet moment on the eve of a holiday but to have a changed life that the rest of the world looks at and goes, "That's surreal. That is an irrational reality that you guys love and live and serve the way you do." Are you a person of song? Are you a person who brings light into darkness? Are you bringing functionality into your dysfunctional family because hope has come? I hope so.

Father, I pray that we would be people who would be changed by the truth of Christmas. I pray that we would be folks like Brian, though we are murderous, and folks like Jason, though we are unfaithful, and folks like Holly, though we have been cursed with the marks of death on us, who would live with hope, and that you would change us. I pray, Lord, that we would be this surreal example of folks who have been set free, who live in the midst of uncertainty with great hope, and who restore what has been lost with great humility.

I pray, Lord, if there's somebody here tonight who hasn't met Christmas, who still has nothing but nasty ingredients and hasn't had the ingredient of Christmas added to their life, that they would want what Brian, Jason, Sandy, and Holly have found, that they would want what all of us find when we come to you and see the wonder of Christmas.


Brian: I was given a life sentence for murder. There wasn't a pinpoint of hope anywhere.

Holly: I think that's where I was initially, just like, "Ugh, I can't believe we're doing this again."

Sandy: It hit me. "God, I've been trying to control this, and I've been trying to do everything on my own, when you're saying, 'Be still and know that I am God.'" That it wasn't what I could do. No matter how much grace I showed and no matter how much patience I was showing Jason, it had to be God working.

Brian: About a year into my incarceration, a guy I met and befriended said, "Man, I'd like you to go to the chapel this weekend for a prison ministry." So I pulled one of those men aside, and I broke down and started crying. I told him about my crime. I told him all of the details of my crime and told him I had never told that to anyone. I got down on my knees and asked God to forgive me. I told him, "I've made a shamble of my life. It's in broken pieces, and I'm now willing that you would have all of it."

Holly: Because of Christ, I don't have to live in fear. My prayer throughout both times we've fought cancer has just been, "God, give me enough grace, give me enough wisdom, give me enough strength for the next 24 hours."

Jason: God just really began to work on my heart, and it was at that point we began talking about truly reconciling, truly getting back together, and restoring not only our marriage but our family as well. We knew we needed the support of people around us.

Brian: A man showed up who would end up discipling me for over 10 years, and as he poured into me, I poured into others, because I saw the richness of life that was being given to me, and I couldn't just hold on to it. I had to give it to somebody else. My thirteenth time up, I spoke with a voting member of the parole board, and for the first time he seemed to be telling me that I was going to make parole. He was telling me what it was going to be like when I got out. After 21 years, 8 months, and 1 day, I was finally released from prison, the day I wasn't sure would ever come.

Jason: As opposed to me walking out and quitting and walking away from my family, Sandy and I were actually remarried in March of 2016.

Sandy: Even in those hopeless moments, those were opportunities to turn to Christ and to turn to his Word, and he has given us a beautiful story, not only reconciliation and healing but a story that we're able to share with others now.

Brian: I found hope only in Christ, letting him direct my steps. I love being a part of Christ's body, because he has so transformed my life.

Holly: That doesn't always look like me being prosperous or wealthy or beautiful or healthy. I've seen that he loves me, and I can lean on that no matter what my circumstances are. God is faithful no matter what.

[End of video]

Todd: If you don't understand the ingredients that were existing, it's not that big a deal that he came, but if you understand the real ingredients that make up our lives and that really surrounded that first Christmas story, you go, "He came to save us. Can you believe the wonder of Christmas?" It's surreal that light would come into that kind of darkness, and the darkness wouldn't comprehend it, but the light is going to prevail. We love to illustrate that in a very real way by having the Christ candle slowly make its way out.

As we reflect on that holy night, that night when you just go, "Can you believe what he's doing?" The angels had no other possible response but to sing in worship, like, "Oh my gosh. Look at grace and mercy. Look at what love looks like. Look at the way he has humbled himself to identify with man." They still didn't even know that it was headed to a cross, where they marveled again at the love of God that hope could come.

As bad as the Christmas story was, it only got worse. You do know that. Faithless disciples, false shepherds, lashings, beatings, crucifixion, death, a betraying friend. Only to see God jump in the middle of that death to bring it to new life, that we might know that he has accomplished what he came to do. That's the Christmas story. It changes everything. It makes murderers servants, it makes broken families whole again, and it makes cancer victims sing.

That's my Jesus. He came to save me. There were a lot of ingredients in this life that needed Christ, and hope has come. I pray, as you're excited to get the light to come to you, that you pay attention to the declaration of the light that came that holy night thousands of years ago that you need to deal with again today. Sing with me and illustrate the hope of Christmas.

I want you to take a moment. I want you to look back and see the darkness. Isn't that surreal? They were in the same world you were just in, but the light didn't get to them. I mean it. Just a bunch of angry kids up there who are ticked off at their parents that they didn't get to play with fire during the service because they didn't get here early enough. It doesn't count the 500 who are right now in our loft and the 200 who are in our chapel that the light hasn't gone to.

It's just surreal that we live in a world that has the exact same Christmas story, and yet because some people have never taken the time to get the light to where it was supposed to go or live in such a way that folks would know that the light exists, they still live in darkness. Surreal. Christmas isn't just a story we're supposed to be familiar with. Christmas is something that's supposed to bring about change in us that makes us radical "noel" declarers the rest of our lives.

We are people who, for whatever reason, live in a surreal way now who, as I say, bring order back into families, who live as selflessly as Christ himself was when he gave himself for us. We are aliens and strangers in a world, and the people go, "I don't get that. That's an irrational human. I don't see you living the way we do." You might say it another way. It's a supra-rational human, a person who lives beyond human understanding, because something supernatural has come, and they understand it's not a story; it's a person, and his name is Jesus.

If you are here and you have never understood that before, nothing would please us more than for you to come and ask us or somebody who brought you. Just say, "Hey, man, explain to me how I can engage with the Christmas story, that it's not just some liturgy I work through; it's a likeness that I become by the grace of God actively working in my life as I engage with him." Ask them. If nobody near you knows it, we'll be here to talk to you. Take the perforated section inside your Watermark News. Check a box on there that says, "Will somebody tell me how I can have a relationship with God?" That is why we're here.

Tomorrow we won't be here, because we're going to be here until after midnight tonight telling the same story, but what we've done is given you a little Advent program to work with your family through all month, and then tomorrow, here's day 25, and I hope you at some point introduce Jesus into your Christmas morning, even as you carry him throughout your entire day and year. You can also go to, and we have a 10-minute message that will meditate a little bit on this, remind ourselves of some things that are true. If that would be a blessing to you, gather around that and be faithful where you are.

If you're here and you've never understood that hope has come, I pray that tonight you see that this is what it's all about, everyman, and it should make you sing, and you should live in a surreal way that the world demands an explanation for, and you give them that explanation this Christmas. "Jesus is my King, and he has come, and he is coming again, so I have joy now."

I pray that if you understand that story you would have a great Christmas and a great week of worship and you'd love others around you. Be gracious to one another. Blow your candles out so we don't have the building burn down. We have to meet in here two more times today. Love one another. God bless you. Merry Christmas.