Christmas at Fellowship Church
What’s Your Scene
December 24, 2017
The Nativity Scene is one of the most iconic symbols of the Christmas season. It’s impossible to go through this time of year and not see at least one or two. Yet, as visible as the Nativity Scene is during the holidays, we often miss the true purpose and power of it in our daily lives—the fact that God’s scene can change everything about our scene! In this message, Pastor Ed Young shifts our perspective on the Nativity and challenges us to ask ourselves what we truly see in the Nativity Scene.
Merry Christmas to everyone. How are you guys doing? I love this cold weather. You know, I gotta have, this is just me, eight hours of sleep. I’ve got to. If I don’t, I’ll get sick. Well, today, though, something crazy happened. I got up at 3:30 in the morning. Now, for me, that’s really early. So, I was like, all right, you’re up at 3:30. What do you do? Of course, coffee. I love coffee. Anybody here love coffee? Any coffee snobs? Oh, I am. It’s gotta be strong coffee. It’s got to be strong coffee. Something about coffee I found out, and this really shocked me, the darker the roast, the less caffeine. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. So the opposite of what I thought for many, many years. Anyway, had some coffee, walked into my office, got on social media. And I don’t go through social media that much. I was just looking at, you know, different posts and comments and things, and videos. The crazy thing about social media is it’s kind of a highlight reel. You know what I’m saying to you? It’s like you see certain scenes about people’s lives, and if you’re not careful, you can pass judgment on the people based on the scenes. Like, whoa, British Virgin Islands over the Christmas holidays? Man. That guy’s rolling. Must be nice, you know. Or, well, she got that ring? Are you kidding me? Look where they live, and look who they’re with. Look at this celebrity, you know? Social media’s crazy, because we watch scene after scene after scene, and really, it’s not the scene. It’s not the true scene of someone’s life. But it’s so powerful, we can get envious, jealous, like, man, competitive, and we always have that best, you know, look you know, when we’re in a picture. Let me see that picture, let me see that picture, and then we’ll post it if we look good. Doesn’t matter if everybody else looks horrible. If I look good, I’m posting the picture, you know?
Well, I wanna talk to you just for a couple of moments about a scene, a scene. And this is a nativity scene, a nativity scene. Have you guys seen any other nativity scenes other than this one during the holidays? You probably have. Nativity scenes, the ubiquitous nativity scene. I didn’t even know what a nativity scene meant. I mean, I knew the phrase, but I didn’t really know the meaning behind it. A nativity scene comes a Latin word nativus, and it simply means a place or occasion for someone’s birth. That’s what it means. And of all places, the first nativity scene was presented in 12/23 in Italy. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. All cool stuff comes from Italy. Cars and clothes and food, coffee. These shoes come from Italy. Now, this suit doesn’t. I was hoping it did. It was made in China. I looked, right before I walked out. But man, my feet feel good.
Anyway, my mother passed away several months ago. She was an amazing lady, a great artist, by the way. And I’m gonna post on social media some of her paintings and drawings. She really, really was gifted. Maybe had the best natural handwriting I’ve ever seen. Unique cursive. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Mom, though, when I was a little kid, I must have been, I don’t know, first, second grade. She went out and bought a nativity scene. But it was in its raw form, you know. The figures hadn’t been painted yet, and she put together the whole thing. And I remember watching her paint this nativity scene. So detailed. It even had, you know, the brightness in the face and the eyes as they looked at the Christ child, and I remember her setting it up, and every Christmas, when she’d take out the nativity scene and present it, I would like, go, yeah, Christmas is right around the corner. And I remember getting down on the level of the nativity scene and looking at those animals, and trying to put myself in that scene, you know what I’m saying? I remember looking at Mary and Joseph and the Christ child and the wise men and the shepherds and the angels, just trying to look at it, you know, real close, and trying to put myself in that scene. That was a scene, man. I mean, that was a real scene. We say, oh, I wanna go to that club or that event, because that’s the place to see and be seen. That’s the place to see and be seen. 2,000 years ago, the nativity was a place to see and be seen. I mean, that was it. Have you ever thought about what the people in the scene were thinking about? Have you ever thought about that? I wonder what was going through their minds, because some of the people understood the central nature of Jesus in the scene. Other people kinda kept the nativity scene at a distance.
So today, the question I wanna ask you is this. What’s your scene? Is Jesus kind of in the scene, maybe he’s in the background kind of, or is Jesus the central figure of your scene? Have you allowed him to be born in a manger in your life? Because God’s scene was obscene, completely obscene. God, I’m talking about the God of the universe, sending his son to be born in a manger with those animal odors, the mess, the dirt, the germs. You know, millennial parents, all freaked out about germs, carrying wipes around, sprays, everything. Oh, watch the baby. No, no, that has germs. No, it’s germs. She might catch that, and that’s good. I mean, I understand that. Jesus, though, was born in a manger, a feeding trough, an ordinary piece of farm furniture. Prince of peace, should have been born in a palace, but, no, no, God being God set forth this obscene scene, the manger, the nativity scene.
And here’s what I want you to consider. The Bible says that God’s nativity scene covered our crime scene. Have you ever seen a crime scene? I have. I’ve seen the yellow crime scene tape. I have friends in law enforcement, and we’ve talked about it. One day they took me to several crime scenes. Wow. I mean, it went down right there, right in the middle of this scene. I have committed crimes before God. I’m a self-centered sinner. And my crimes deserve payment. Well, the great news, the good news of Christmas is that God sent Jesus to be born in a crib. He crawled out of the crib, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on the cross, and rose again. So, the nativity scene is God with us. Calvary is God for us, and Easter is God in us. What’s your scene? Because I would argue that you’ll never understand your scene until Jesus is at the center of your scene.
Well, the angels were attracted to this nativity scene. Well, let me let scripture unpack it. Check this out. Luke chapter 2, and let’s read together verses 8 and 9. One, two, three, go. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified.” Read here, freaked out. Read here, they lost it. Read here, palpitations. Read here, they probably threw up a little bit in their mouths, they were so scared. I mean, you see an angel, and this angel probably was Gabriel. Then the Bible says some more angels joined in, and hallelujah! Can you imagine how these angels, these heavenly beings could sing? And these shepherds. Shepherds were outcasts, and I’m not talking about the rapper. They were outcasts. Their testimony, some of you didn’t even get that. That’s okay. Their testimony couldn’t even be used in the court of law, yet God used these shepherds to testify, the first witnesses of the birth. Isn’t that something? Shepherds. Shepherds. So the angels show up, and you know the angels were just totally messed up as well, because they saw God send Jesus, the second person of the godhead, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, they watched God send the creator to be born as a creature in a nativity scene? Don’t you know they were going, what? What? But because they’re heavenly beings, because they worship God, they trust God, and they were singing about the birth of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus. The angels. These guys were something else. I saw guys. They, again, were heavenly beings. They did, though, communicate and connect with some of my favorite people in the nativity scene, the shepherds.
Now, I talked about the shepherds a second ago, but let’s just think about them more and more. These guys were pulling an all-nighter. These guys were taking care of sheep and lambs that were used in a sacrificial system in the temple. So you see the foreshadowing there. You see Jesus being called the lamb of God. What’s the best place for a lamb to be born? In a barn. Also, Jesus was called the good shepherd. Who were the first ones on the scenes? Who were the first one who witnessed? The shepherds. So I think you’re seeing what God is lying down, what he’s putting out there. And then you have God behind the scenes orchestrating everything. Caesar Augustus sets for this census. Mary and Joseph. Ladies, how many of you have ever had a baby before? Lift your hand. Okay, okay. You won’t believe this. Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth. Because of the census, they had to travel 80 miles to Bethlehem. Mary, nine months pregnant, was riding on the back of a donkey the entire way. Ladies, what would you have said to your husband? Honey, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is we’re going on a romantic getaway. The bad news is you’re going to have to ride on the back of a donkey. I mean, think about that. So God used all of that to bring them together for this cosmic collision called the nativity scene.
So, these shepherds were like hanging out in the field. The angels show up. They’re scared to death, and now, look at verse 15, Luke chapter 2. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let’s go.” I love the urgency there. Let’s go to Bethlehem. And then the name Bethlehem means house of bread, and of course in John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.” And then verse 17. “When they’d seen him…” him being Jesus, “…they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” Now, I find that stunning. Now, now, now, stay with me here. The shepherds are now tasked with telling people about Jesus. They’re literally taking the place of the angels. Now, I’m a why guy. I’m like, well, God, why didn’t the angels just continue to share and to fly around and sing? Well, the angels, as I’ve been saying, are heavenly beings. They had not nor will they experience the grace of God like human beings, like the shepherds. So no wonder God chose the shepherds. No wonder he chooses you and me, those of us who’ve made a manger out of our lives. So, what’s your scene?
This nativity scene is obscene. The God of the universe sending Jesus to do what he did on planet Earth, to cover our crime scene. Unbelievable. Now, the wise men. Now, these guys were very wealthy. And have you ever thought about just the demographics of the nativity? A lot of people study demographics. Well, the demographics were diverse. You have the uber-rich, the dirt poor. You have people from different walks of life, different colors, all sorts of people there at the nativity. Well, the wise men were from modern-day Iraq, and some have thought, well, how did these guys know to look and see the star, and go, yo, let’s go? How did they know? Probably, they knew the writings of Daniel, an Old Testament figure, who penned prophecies about the coming Messiah. So, these guys were on point. They were ready. They were looking for the star. So, Matthew chapter 2, verses 10 and 11. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw…” don’t you love this? They saw, and read the Christmas story, Luke two, Matthew two, and circle how many times you see the word see, saw, seen. It’s quite a scene. “So on coming to the house, the saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures.” I mean, they were giving some serious, serious stuff to Jesus. They presented him with gifts. Gold. That represents the deity of Jesus, fully God, fully man, something we’ll never understand. Frankincense. That’s the domain of Jesus. In other words, the priesthood of the believer, the priesthood of Jesus. I don’t have to go through a priest to pray. You don’t have to go through a priest to pray. Jesus is our high priest. That’s why, when I pray, I conclude every prayer by saying in Jesus’s name, amen. Isn’t that great? And even the prayers I can’t even articulate, my high priest, your high priest, Jesus, is interpreting those to God the Father. Man, that’s good. So, gold represents deity. Frankincense represents the domain, and myrrh foreshadowed his death, burial, and resurrection. So the wise men show up. So the wise men, after they worship Jesus, if you keep reading, the Bible says they return by another route, by a different way. They made Jesus the central figure of their scene. So I’ve gotta ask you, where is Jesus in your scene?
These people responded. They, they had, and we all have a proclivity toward the nativity. Some, though, say, okay, Jesus, you’re the central figure. Others, though, keep him at a distance, and this morning at 3:30, some of the people that I checked out, some of the photos I saw, some of the comments I read were people I’ve known for decades. Some have sat in the same seats that you’re sitting and right now, God is at a distance in their lives, and you can see it and tell it, because I know the backstory of so many of the photos of those people. It’s sad. They had an opportunity. They had a chance. Kept him at a distance. Others, though, that I was, would you call it snooping? Yeah, yeah. Snooping on, or just stalking, yeah. Have made Jesus the central part of their lives. And I’m telling you, man, their lives are hitting on all cylinders. You can see it, because I know what’s on behind the scenes. So the Bible tells us what’s going on behind this scene, and you’ve got Herod. Herod didn’t respond to the scene. He was on a power trip. Used people as scenery and machinery. You’ve got the innkeeper. He had all this pressure on him. You know, you ask someone how are you doing, and today, the response is not fine, how are you. The response today is, oh, I’m busy, I’m just slammed. I’m just jammed. I’m just busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy. And I fall into that same trap. When I say I’m busy, what am I saying? I’m important. So the innkeeper missed it. And then you have the religious leaders. Their priorities were out of whack. All they had to do was run a 5K to Bethlehem. But they’re like, no, no, no, not today, I’ve gotta do this, I’ve gotta do that. Today, we’re stuck in the superfluous.
I remember when our kids were young. You know, we have four kids. And when they were little, I mean, I’m talking like, the twins were maybe five. EJ was like eight. Leigh Beth was maybe 12. Lisa was unpacking our nativity scene. She unpacked all the elements, and then she was like, “Where’s the baby Jesus?” And she goes, “Ed, where’s the baby Jesus?” I said, “Lisa, I have no idea. I didn’t pack it last Christmas.” She goes, “Baby Jesus is not in the box.” So, she lined the kids up. It was like interrogation. “LeeBeth, do you have baby Jesus?” “No, ma’am.” “EJ, do you have baby Jesus?” “No.” “Twins, do you have baby?” “No.” “Where’s baby Jesus?” And finally, we found baby Jesus in another box. Well, this Christmas, I’m just simply asking you, where is Jesus? Where is he? Where is he? Don’t go through another moment, another time, without him being the central figure of your nativity scene, because your life can be an occasion, a place, where Jesus can be born, and he can reside in your life. That is the good news of Christmas.
[Ed closes in prayer]