The Rhythm of Christmas
“God is the God of Christmas”
By Ed Young
Intro option A:
<start clapping a beat and have everyone join in and then stop. Then do a more complicated beat and have people join in that. Then have everyone stop.>
Think about it. While you are clapping with me, you’re experiencing rhythm. I gave you a pattern, and you simply followed that. And that’s what rhythm is all about.
Intro option B:
I like to call myself a frustrated drummer. I’ve always been drawn to the drums. I don’t know why, but maybe because they set the pace. They’re sort of the context for all the songs.
Drums are definitely a primitive instrument, arguably the oldest instrument. They date back to 4000 BC.
I remember as a 5-year-old kid going to a high school football game and begging my parents to take me by the band as it entered the stadium, and they were playing the drum line.
From there they gave me a snare drum for Christmas. And then years later they gave me a drum set – red sparkle.
I played the drums a lot, but I stopped abruptly when I was in about the 5th grade. After my parents got me the drums, I guess I was in the 2nd grade, my teacher allowed me to set my drums up in the auditorium at our little elementary school and play a drum solo for everyone. I still remember what I played! Sadly, I haven’t really improved since then.
Now, instead of playing the drums, I just kind of tap my fingers all the time, constantly. Sometimes I’ll play rhythm games with my family if we’re on a road trip or whatever. I’ll say, “match my rhythm.” And I’ll see if they can match what I do. And I might play that game with you right now!
<match the rhythm game>
Rhythm is interesting. When do you beat? When do you rest? When to strike; when not to. When do you play? When do you say, “no, I’m not going to play”?
T.S. If you apply what we just did in your life, you could experience the ultimate rhythm that God has for you. You can avoid a lot of drama, trauma, anxiety, and anger. You can keep from wasting time. You can find things like the ultimate spouse, career path, joy, and freedom.
Think about the pace, the rhythm your life is following. The pattern. The sound. The tempo. You can tell a lot about where a person has been and where a person is going by their rhythm.
Illus: Lisa and I love dogs. And our dogs have a certain rhythm. We have a Doberman, a maltipoo, and a golden doodle. We wake up in the morning, they go outside. They come back in. We feed them and give them water. Two of the dogs fall asleep in our family room; the other little maltipoo always comes to my office with me as I study. The dogs love to bark at people walking down our street. And they also play a lot together. When I come home, they greet me. When I eat, they surround me. When it gets dark I say, “let’s go night-night!” And they all trot into our bedroom. That’s a rhythm that Lisa and I are very aware of.
The rub comes in, the problem is, a lot of us don’t really pay attention to our rhythm. We don’t realize we’re going through life in a certain rhythm. We sometimes see our lives as a series of unrelated, random beats. And we don’t learn from the past like we should. And we don’t get on track for the future like we wish we could.
Maybe you’ve gone through a series of bad relationships, and you think it’s just bad luck. Could it be there’s a certain rhythm you have to your dating life, certain patterns? And the reason you keep having the same results is because you haven’t changed your rhythm.
Maybe you’re struggling with you job, with finding a career path that suits you. Could it be there’s a certain rhythm you have in your commitment to work, your perspective on authority? The reason you keep having the same results is because you haven’t changed your rhythm.
Here’s the bottom line. You can’t always change your reality. But you can change your rhythm. And the results of that can change your reality.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So I don’t know what rhythm your life is following. But I can guarantee you that we’re all playing to the beat of a certain rhythm. And that rhythm will determine the results of our lives. But here’s the amazing thing. Rhythm can change. You can have tempo changes, meter changes, pattern changes. And although you may feel powerless to changing your reality, you should try changing your rhythm to see how the results of that change your reality.
God is the God of rhythm.
Our body is a rhythm machine. Look at the rhythm of our skeletal system, our muscular system, our cardiovascular system, our respiratory system. Our heart has a rhythm. Our breath has a rhythm. Our walk has a rhythm. Our run has a rhythm. Everything has a rhythm.
The earth has a rhythm. Our orbit has a rhythm. Our solar system has a rhythm. Our universe has a rhythm. Look at the rhythm of our planet. Look at the rhythm of the calendar. Look at the rhythm of the seasons.
Illus: my mother has been in ICU for the past several weeks. And I’ve gone down to see her. And I’m just astonished at all of the machines, all of the technology she’s wired into. All of it is all about rhythm.
Where does the rhythm come from? It comes from the divine drummer – God. He breathed rhythm into the lungs of man. And man pretty much lived by God’s rhythm until they decided to march to the beat of their own drum. So often, I think, we worship the drum beat instead of the drummer. They got out of rhythm. They took the sticks from God, and the result was chaotic.
Rhythm, I think it is easy to see and say, is built into the human soul. God started the beat. We’re made for rhythm. All of our lives are lived by a certain rhythm. Yet, rhythm out of context is chaos.
God began the rhythm. That’s where the rhythm started. Rhythm has to start somewhere. This divine drummer, if you will, laid down the rhythm. And man followed the rhythm. Yet, the bible tells us that man got off rhythm due to his rebellion.
The first man and first woman were living by God’s pattern, his rhythm. Then they decided to march to the beat of their own drum. And we see God continuing his beat throughout the old testament. Yet, man was living, in essence, the way he wanted to.
Then, though, the rhythm stopped.
When you play the drums, you have to know when to strike the drum and when to rest, when to stop. So between the old and new testaments, there were 400 years of silence. God was changing his rhythm. His rhythm isn’t about religion, and people weren’t getting it. So God changed his rhythm. He gave us a relational rhythm. And that’s what the rhythm of Christmas is all about.
God gave us a new rhythm, first found in the heartbeat of Jesus. <clap a heartbeat rhythm> je-sus. Je-sus. Je-sus. The rhythm of Christmas is about Jesus. It’s about allowing Jesus to sit on the drum throne of our lives.
Rhythm is meaningless without context. It’s kind of like a word. If I say the word “ring” you don’t know what I mean. That could mean a lot of different things, depending on its context. The same is true with rhythm. If I give you a rhythm you have no idea where it starts and ends, or how it’s supposed to fit into a song. Not until you hear it in its context.
Jesus is the context to God’s rhythm. Without Jesus, God’s rhythm seems like nothing but patterns, a religious rhythm. “do this and don’t do that.” But with Jesus you see God’s love and his plan, and you realize that God’s plan was, is, and will always be relational.
In Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) Jesus said, ““are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.””
He’s not talking about “come here and I’ll show you a pattern for your life.” I mean, that’s part of it. But he wants to show you love, mercy, and forgiveness.
It’s like the command, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Well, what if my neighbor is an idiot? Without Jesus that command can seem nearly impossible. But with Jesus, I’m reminded that I’m not perfect; yet, Jesus died for me. I didn’t deserve it. So Jesus gives the command a certain context, where now it becomes achievable. And I can change my rhythm and the results can change my reality.
Jesus knows the patterns that propel us into power and purpose. He knows the rhythm that will rock us into a reality, because he is the rock of all ages like we’ve never dreamed. His rhythm is relational, not religious. All we have to do is give him the sticks and let him sit on the drum throne of our lives.
So all of our lives are moving to a certain rhythm, a certain beat. And while we may not be able to change our reality, we can change our rhythm. And the results of that will change our reality.
But the rhythm of Christmas isn’t about our pace, nor just our patterns. The rhythm of Christmas is about a person. Christ’s rhythm is rudimentary. He’s the foundation of our lives and existence.
In John 1:1-3, “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. 2 he was with God in the beginning. 3 through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
“word” here is “logos”. It’s the Greek word for the indwelling logic, or rational order of things. Jesus is the word, the one who gives our lives foundation, revealing to us the logic of God and bringing rational order to our lives.
John 1:11-13, “he came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Jesus gave us the right to become children of God. His rhythm is regenerating. He resets us and makes us new. We all know what it feels like to march to the beat of our own drum. He gives us the opportunity to play to the beat of a different drum.
in John 1:14, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father, full of grace and truth.”
Christ’s rhythm is relational. He meets us right where we are with grace and truth.
The woman at the well had a rhythm which is what led to her having multiple husbands. Jesus changed her rhythm by introducing her to something, really someone that broke her pattern and changed her rhythm.
A drummer is the foundation of a band. The rhythm is the foundation of the song. It’s what keeps everything organized and held together. Take rhythm out, you’ve got chaos.
Colossians 1:15-18 (MSG), “for everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.”
That sounds like rhythm, does it not? Jesus sets the rhythm. We find our purpose. And our lives go from chaotic to organized and secure when we revolve our life around his rhythm.
Maybe you say, “Ed, my life is sort of out of sync. My marriage, my family. I’m lonely. I’m depressed.”
You have a certain rhythm, but Jesus’ rhythm will put your rhythm into context, and that can change your reality.
Maybe as you look at your life you say to yourself, “wow. I just don’t feel like I have any syncopation. There’s no real purpose. The pattern I’m living by is preposterous.”
All of us have this rhythm of rebellion. We’ve said, “you know, I want to march to the beat of my own drum.” So we’re out of sync because of sin.
God kept his beat, though. In the old testament, think about his people, Israel. During the Egyptian slavery, he kept his beat. The prophets. All of them knew a new beat was coming. They predicted it; they anticipated it.
in Galatians 4:4-5 (NKJV), “but when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
“At just the right time.” God started a new beat. The heartbeat of heaven. Jesus.
That’s rhythm. And that’s the rhythm of Christmas. Jesus was born of a woman. He experienced the rhythm of man. He was born under the law. The law was a system of rules and regulations that no man could keep. Yet, Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly. He had perfect rhythm.
You know, rhythm is intrinsic. As I’ve said, our bodies are systems of rhythm. Our planet, solar system, and universe are all about rhythm. There are rhythms of seasons, month and year, our calendar, our day has a rhythm. We walk, we run, we work. There’s a rhythm to life and death. A rhythm in conversation. A rhythm in childbirth. And there’s also a rhythm of Christmas. Christ’s heartbeat changed the world.
There were different beats, Christmas beats, in the rhythm of the first Christmas.
The wise men, as they travelled from afar, had that consistent beat in the rhythm of their steps.
Herod had a rhythm. His steps were hard and angry steps.
The angels didn’t step. They just flew around.
The shepherds had a fast rhythm as they walked to the manger.
God stepped to rhythm down the staircase of heaven with a baby in his arms.
God’s groove, the bible’s beat, the rhythm of Christmas. When that rhythm – je-sus – stated, that magnificent movement, that pace, the geological plates of the world began to shift.
We hear our sovereign, singular savior’s sound. The sound of his heart. Feel the flow, the pattern, the tempo. His heartbeat beats for the world.
John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus was conceived by the holy spirit, and the heartbeat of heaven began to pump blood through his veins.
God set forth that rhythm, and the rhythm, when Jesus was conceived by the holy spirit in Mary; that rhythm began to beat. Je-sus. Je-sus. Je-sus.
God says, “I’ll let you in on my rhythm. There is a place for my pace in your soul.”
Illus: my mother has been in critical condition for a while. I flew down to Houston on Monday and was with her in ICU. On Tuesday I was with her. I held her hand and although she can’t talk, she squeezed my hand three times. I knew what that meant. “I love you.” And then I responded “I love you, too.”
Tap-tap-tap. That’s what Jesus does. Then he waits for our response. Tap-tap-tap, tap. “I love you, too.”
Rhythm is simply a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Who started this repeated pattern of movement or sound? God, the divine drummer. Again, the beat didn’t come from nothing. No wonder they call it the big bang!
God, though, being God, did not beat it into our heads. He just has that consistent relational rhythm. His heart beats fast for you and me. God’s heart beats fast for the world. That’s the message of Christmas.
We’re rhythmic beings. And we get in sync with the savior. We follow the beat of the babe from Bethlehem when we give him the sticks of our lives, when we say, “you sit on the throne.”
So we simply either join in on his rhythm or not. When I throw down a beat in the car, my kids either follow me or not.
Christmas is all about rhythm. From the syncopation of shoppers frantically buying presents to the beat of bells. The cadence of Christmas carols heard in shopping malls everywhere. Without realizing it, we find ourselves caught up and allowing the up tempo living in the temporal to crowd out the great gift.
In rhythm, timing is everything. If you’re a drummer in the band, you have a very important job. You set the tempo and you keep in time so the band is in sync with what you play. Timing is everything.
Everyone knew that God was going to send a new rhythm to reconcile and redeem the world. This word “rhythm” is derived from “rhythmos” which means “a measured motion.”
God measured out all of his options before putting his plan into motion. He thought long and hard, because there was a divine dilemma. What would God do about the sin problem in the world? Would he wipe us out? Or would he bring us back into rhythm?
Then, on that first Christmas, he put that measured plan into motion as God showed the greatest display of rhythm the world has ever seen. When Christ was born, his heartbeat signaled a new rhythm that would revolutionize the world.
Jesus lived for 33 years. The average person has 115,200 heartbeats every day. That’s over 42 million heartbeats in a year. Jesus had over 1.38 billion heartbeats (1,387,584,000). But on the cross, after he perfectly followed the beat of the law, the heartbeat of heaven came to a halt. It appeared the beat had suffered the ultimate defeat.
But on that third day, it began to beat again – so loud, so majestic, so full that Jesus burst forth with resurrection power. God has always had his finger on the pulse of the world.
There was a rhythm that changed the world. [heartbeat sound]. A rhythm found inside the heart of a newborn child that grew to become a man [heartbeat sound]. That would stand up to religion. [heartbeat sound]. That would defeat the devil and sin. [heartbeat sound]. That would live a perfect life. [heartbeat sound]. That would die a sacrificial death. [heartbeat sound]. And then stop.
That rose again. [heartbeat sound]. Je-sus. Je-sus.
When you can’t feel anything else, you can always feel the beat. Je-sus. Je-sus. Je-sus.
No rhythm, no life. Know rhythm, know life.
A woman thinks she’s pregnant. She goes to the doctor, and what does the doctor say? “I hear a heartbeat.” Do you hear God’s heartbeat?
Every year, Christmas is a time of celebration. It’s a time when friends and family gather to remember all they have been blessed with, and they look ahead to what is still to come. But the joy of Christmas isn’t just about one day.
In this Christmas message, Pastor Ed Young will help us experience the true rhythm of Christmas and discover how it can set the tone for the rest of our lives!