Today is the First Sunday in the Season of Christmas. Christmas is, after all, a season of 12 days, beginning with December 25.
Of course, if it was not for the song, “On the 12th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” we not know anything about the 12 day season of Christmastide. For us, December 25th is the first and last day of Christmas.
So for the most part, our Christmas is done. Some of us have even taken down our trees and decorations.
We have opened our gifts and thrown away the wrapping paper.
I suppose we all open gifts differently. Some of you may open a gift delicately and gently. Me, I like to rip it open. Save the bows! Bah! Toss the bows and ribbons away! Who needs to save the bows and ribbons! Just let me see what’s inside.
It’s a neck tie!
Just what I wanted. Thanks.
Have you ever noticed that when someone opens a present – there are two ways they can respond. One is to say “Wow! This is great.”
The other is to look at the gift, and then say what the gift is.
Ah - It’s a mop.
It’s a tie. What in the world would I do with a necktie?
Once in a while, you give a gift and you get the feeling that the person receiving the gift is not that happy with what was received.
Now if you think this is new, think again. Go back to two thousand years and you will find that people were disappointed with the very first Christmas gift.
The first Christmas gift was, of course, Jesus Christ. Given by God to the world.
Now there are some people who will tell you that no one has ever been disappointed in Jesus Christ, but take a look at the reaction to John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was at best “concerned” about Jesus being the Christ. And at worst, he was “disappointed” that Jesus was the Christ.
John the Baptist had a vested interest in Jesus being a successful Messiah.
John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for Christ.
John the Baptist was in the dessert and at the Jordan River, preaching and baptizing, and telling people to be ready for Christ.
John the Baptist was the one who baptized Christ in the Jordan.
John the Baptist watched Jesus begin his career.
He listened to others report on what Jesus was doing, and what he was saying.
And now, John is in prison! John has put his career, his reputation and his very life into Jesus, and Jesus is not what he expected.
And John was disappointed in how Jesus was turning out to be the Messiah.
For John the Baptist, the Messiah was going to judge the good and the evil and throw the evil into an unquenchable fire. Instead, Jesus came and said things like, “Blessed are the merciful.”[i]
John the Baptist liked to point fingers at people and say things like, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to run from the escaping wrath?”[ii] And in contrast, Jesus warned people, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”[iii]
You see, when John the Baptist was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus to be the Messiah, he probably got real excited, thinking that God was finally going to “fix” the world – and “fixing” the world meant bringing judgment against “those” people.
And as the popularity of Jesus grew, John the Baptist began to get nervous.
And maybe disappointed in Jesus.
And eventually John sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask the bold question, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
In other words, John doesn’t look at Jesus and say, “Wow, this is great!” Instead John the Baptist looks at Jesus and says,
“Oh, he’s a peacemaker.”
“Oh, it’s someone who will show mercy instead of casting someone in the fires of hell.”
“Oh, it’s not someone who will “fix” my enemies by destroying them. It’s someone who tells me to love my enemies, and to pray for them.”
For John the Baptist, it is as if it is Christmas Day, and he opens the box and says, “Oh, it’s a necktie.”
It may well be that John had just a moment of hope, a moment of temptation, when he sent the question to Jesus, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Maybe John was hoping that Jesus would say, “Yes, expect someone else.”
But instead, Jesus gives proof that he is the Messiah, by saying, “The blind receive sight” -- well, John the Baptist never expected the Messiah to do that!
And Jesus says, “The lame walk.” -- well, John the Baptist never expected the Messiah to do that!
And Jesus says, “those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor!” -- John the Baptist never expected the Messiah to do that!
What about throwing all the evil people into that fire?
Not a word.
The greatest gift of Christmas is Jesus Christ, and there is a danger that we might be disappointed in that gift.
Disappointed in Jesus Christ? Us?
When you picked up the newspapers last week and learned that a gunman had gone into an elementary school with multiple weapons shooting and killing the children and teachers, were you disappointed that God and Christ would allow that to happen?
In Syria, the fighting goes on and on. There is no end in sight. Are you disappointed that God and Christ allow war and violence to continue?
The doctor tells you that you have cancer. Are you disappointed that God and Christ would let that happen to you?
Someone you love dies.
You lose your job.
Your kids fail in school.
Your parents are mean.
Your spouse cheats on you.
Are you disappointed in Christ?
If you have ever been disappointed in Christ, I can tell you right now what the problem is.
How many of you here, when you get a new toy for Christmas – maybe a cell phone, or an IPod, or a PDA, or GPS system, or something… How many of you – before you turn on the new device and try to operate it -- read the instructions FIRST. Raise your hands.
How many of you read the instructions only AFTER you turn on the new device and can’t get it to work?
If we have ever been disappointed in Christ, it is because we need to go back and read the instruction book – the Bible.
Have you ever been disappointed that God in Christ did not do what YOU wanted him to do?
The Bible never says that Christ is here to serve you, but rather, we are here to serve Christ.
Time and again, we see the phrase in Scripture, “Serve the Lord.”
In Psalm 100, we read, “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
In I Samuel, we read, “Do not turn away from God, but serve the Lord.”[iv]
In Colossians, we read, “It is the Lord you are serving.”[v]
You see, in our contemporary, self-centered, self-seeking culture, we expect to be served. We expect God Almighty to wait on us. We fall into thinking that God’s purpose is to serve us and to make us happy.
We forget that it is the other way around.
We are here to serve God.
We are here to serve Christ.
We are here to serve, not to be served.
We expect Jesus to listen to our prayers and do exactly as we say. And he doesn’t. And we might become disappointed. But what He does for us, is what is best for us, but not necessarily what we WANT.
We want Jesus to wipe out the evil people around us. But Jesus does one better - Jesus calls us to love those people and to be at peace with them.
We want Jesus to change the world for our liking.
But instead, Jesus changes US to be at peace with this world.
If we have ever been disappointed in God or Jesus, it is not because they have failed us. It is because we not understand.
And if we remain faithful, we will find that Christ is so much better than we ever expected.