Part 1: One Not So Silent Night
Discussion following the sermon from 12/5/21
The Christmas story from a human perspective is messy. Our new sermon series One Ugly Christmas shows how Christmas (God’s gift to the world) gives hope even in the ugliness of life. This week will look at the difficult circumstances Joseph faced and how he responds when God’s plan “messes” up his plans.
Matthew 1:18–25 (NLT) "This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. 'Joseph, son of David,' the angel said, 'do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 'Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’' When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus."
Joseph thought he had his life and future all planned out. He was engaged to a Jewish girl and probably envisioned them having a family blessed by God. The Bible tells us that he was a righteous man, and yet something almost unimaginable happens that derails his plans. Mary, who he intends to marry, is with child. What a mess! Joseph does not want to shame Mary, so he decides to break off the engagement quietly. Then as he is pondering how he can break the engagement, the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream. The angel tells him that Mary’s child is conceived of the Holy Spirit, and the Son she is carrying will be named Jesus (which means Savior) because He will save His people from their sins. Mary’s divine conception is part of God’s plan as predicted by the prophet Isaiah. Joseph chooses to obey God and takes Mary as his wife.
Joseph had a decision to make. Would he figure out a plan B or would he submit to the will of God and marry Mary and raise her child as his own. He chooses to obey God, and because he did, he became the earthly father of the Savior. In today’s sermon Pastor Beau asks what wakes us up at night? What is God asking of us that is not part of our plan? Sometimes following God is ugly, just like it was for Joseph. Beau gives us three important things to remember that offer us hope when God messes up our plans.
WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN GOD MESSES UP YOUR PLANS
- GOD’S PLANS ARE SOMETIMES PAINFUL.
Romans 8:17–18 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
The life of faith is, at times, painful. Often we do not understand why God is leading us down a path we did not choose. We must remember that God’s plans are far beyond our human understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). Whether our circumstances are good or bad, they do not dictate whether or not we are in God’s will. Romans 8:17-18 reveals that God is working out His plan, and we will see the glory of that plan later. There is tension between the mess and uncertainty we have now and the glory that will be revealed later. Our hope in God fills the gap while we endure the pain. Everyone has experienced shattered dreams caused by the pain of the last two years, yet we know God still has a plan. Discuss how God’s plan can mess up our plan. Talk about how God’s detours help us grow and see God’s purpose for our lives.
- GOD’S PLANS ARE ALWAYS PERFECT.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 tells us that God’s plan is good. You might say that God chooses what we would choose if we knew all that He knows. Psalms 18:30 states, “As for God, His way is perfect.” And yet to us, God’s plan often seems anything but perfect. The path God has us on may be difficult, or we might not be able to see God’s plan. This is particularly true when we look at other people’s messes. We see the ugliness in others and think there’s no hope for them. But again, we must remember: God can use our ugly lives to work His plan. Don’t discount people whose lives are messy. They may be right where God wants them to be. Ask the group if they will share a time when they observed God work His plan through someone else’s mess.
- GOD’S PLANS WILL CERTAINLY PREVAIL!
Proverbs 19:21 You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
These verses and many more remind us that God is in control. They also show us that trusting God is the only answer, especially when life is ugly. God’s plan for our hope and future is sure, and if we trust in the Lord, He will show us the path to take. Ask your group to share areas in their lives where they are having a hard time trusting God with their mess. Commit as a group to pray for one another that God will show each of us His path.
Close by praying together and invite everyone to the next group meeting.
Part 2: One Ugly Miracle
Discussion following the sermon from 12/12/21
In last Sunday's sermon, Pastor Beau looks at the seemingly hopeless situation of Mary, a teenage girl, who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. She fears that her fiancé might abandon her, and that the community will make her the object of shame. But God has a different plan. Today’s Scripture relays the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel that shows how God can take something ugly and make it something beautiful.
Luke 1:26–38 (NKJV) "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!' But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.' Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.' Then Mary said, 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her."
At first, Mary is troubled by the angel calling her “highly favored.” She has done nothing to make her feel “blessed among women.” Then the angel tells her that she will become pregnant and bear a Son who will be the “Son of the Highest,” and who will reign over His people forever. This information completely confuses Mary. She is a virgin and she sees no way that any of this can possibly happen. Discuss within the group why Mary is favored, even though she does not think she deserves God’s favor. Ask them to say whether they think all believers are favored, and ask them to explain why? Talk about what it means to be favored by God.
Mary had a decision to make. Would she choose to accept God’s plan even though it would cause uncertainty and hardship in her life? She knew the prophecies about the Messiah, but she could not even imagine the enormity of what being the mother of the Savior would mean. She chose to trust God and told the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Ask the group to discuss how Mary was able to go from “how can this be” to “let it be to me according to your word.”
Pastor Beau explained that willing people like Mary can experience God’s transformational miracles. He lists seven miracles that God is doing in those who are willing.
MIRACLES GOD IS DOING IN THOSE THAT ARE WILLING
- THE GUILT-RIDDEN BECOMES THE GRACE-FILLED.
- THE CAPTIVE BECOMES THE FREE.
- THE HOPELESS BECOMES THE HOPEFUL.
- THE GREEDY BECOMES THE GIVER.
- THE SELF-CENTERED BECOMES THE SERVANT TO MANY.
- THE EMBITTERED BECOMES THE FORGIVER.
- THE DEFEATED BECOMES THE VICTOR.
Each of these miraculous transformations start with a destructive human weakness. Man’s answer to these destructive attitudes and behaviors is to dress them up or to try to hide them. But God miraculously changes the person to produce something constructive. Just as God’s Christmas miracle changed the ugliness of man’s sinful condition, He can change the human heart to make something beautiful—even in the ugliest situations. Have the group share a miracle that they need this Christmas. Talk about ways that we can help others experience a Christmas miracle.
Close the group by taking prayer requests and praying for one another.
Part 3: Perfectly Ugly Gifts
Discussion following the sermon from 12/19/21
This series has been about the ugliness of the Christmas story. First, there is the young man, Joseph, who must deal with the ugly situation of having his fiancée become pregnant with a baby that is not his. Then there is Mary, a young, teenage girl who is still a virgin, yet she must face all the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock even though her pregnancy is through divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. The whole situation is truly a mess. This week’s sermon picks up the story after the baby Jesus is born.
Matthew 2:1–11 (NKJV) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The Magi coming to worship a baby that is the king of the Jews is a complete surprise to the current king, Herod. He knows nothing about a star announcing the birth of this child who is supposed to be the king. Herod asked the chief priests and scribes to tell him where this baby is to be born. They tell Herod that Micah the prophet predicted that the coming Messiah/King would be born in the small town of Bethlehem. Herod directs the Magi, and when they start out for Bethlehem the star reappears and leads them to the child. The Magi worship the child and give Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In this week’s sermon, Pastor Beau reveals the importance of these three gifts.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE PERFECT GIFTS
- GOLD REMINDS ME THAT JESUS IS IN COMPLETE CONTROL.
Zechariah 14:9 And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
Revelation 17:14 Together they will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him.
Gold was a gift that was only given to kings. And yet, we have these Magi, who were from another country, recognizing this child as the King of all the earth just as the prophet Zechariah had predicted. And not only is this child King over all the earth but Revelation 17:14 reveals that He will defeat all the nations of the earth and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. There is even more good news: we are the chosen, and we will be with Him when He comes in glory to rule the earth. Discuss how knowing that Jesus is in complete control gives us confidence, despite the uncertainty in the world.
- FRANKINCENSE REMINDS ME THAT JESUS IS WITH ME.
Hebrews 4:15–16 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 13:5–6 For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear."
Frankincense was the only spice used by the High Priest when making offerings. Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that Jesus is the eternal High Priest. He knows our weaknesses, and He offered Himself up for our sin that we might be forgiven. Jesus continually represents us to the Father, and He has promised that He will never forsake us. Hebrews 13:5-6 says that The Lord is our helper. Discuss among the group what it means to say, “God is my helper.” Share some of the ways God has helped you in the past.
- MYRRH REMINDS ME THAT JESUS LOVES ME.
John 15:12–13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Myrrh was used in preparing a body for burial. The gift of myrrh serves as a reminder that Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to earth was to die for our sins. Nothing shows greater love than one choosing to sacrifice themself for another, and that is exactly what our Lord did for us. Ask the group to share what Jesus’ love means to them. Discuss what it means to die to self and live for Jesus.
Take prayer requests, pray, and spend some time celebrating the joy of the Christmas season.