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Intro: Christmas traditions
Christmas comes but once a year. That’s one of the reasons that it’s so special. Once a year, we gather to celebrate Christmaswith nativities, gifts, parties, decorations, and many more traditions. Many things that happen once at Christmas become traditions.
Maybe your family eats a certain meal each Christmas. Maybe your town’s Christmas parade always travels a certain route. Maybe your church always does the same Christmas pageant. Or maybe you have a certain Christmas tradition.
Teacher's Note: Give some personal and local examples of Christmas traditions. Make these warm and fuzzy examples to contrast the story that follows.
But not everything that happens at Christmas should become a tradition. That’s what Robert Schoff discovered. While Santa Claus tries to go down the chimney on Christmas Eve, Robert ended up falling down a septic tank on Christmas Eve.
Robert reached into the tank to try to find out what was clogging it, but he lost his balance and fell headfirst into the opening. He wasn’t just stuck in the septic tank; he was stuck in the septic tank with his nose pointed toward the foul-smelling stuff that filled the tank. Robert screamed for help, but because his head was in the tank, his wife couldn’t hear him. It wasn’t until an hour later that she walked past the window and saw his feet in the air. She called 911, and two sheriff’s deputies finally were able to get Robert out.
He said, “Thank God my wife saw me. I don’t think I could have stood staying inthere much longer. .. It wasn’t good, I’ll tell you what. It was the worst Christmas Eve I’ve ever had.”
(Citation: “Stinky Christmas for man stuck in septic tank,” Associated Press via msnbc.com, 12-26-2007)
Teacher's Note: Feel free to add or substitute a personal story of Christmas gone wrong.
Connecting the illustration
It’s a funny thought to picture a guy headfirst in a septic tank with his legs waving in the air, but the fact that this happened on Christmas Eve makes us laugh even more. After all, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song says. We don’t expect Christmas stories to end up in a septic tank (unless Cousin Eddie comes to visit).
For Robert Schoff, Christmas was very messy, and that surprises us because we don’t expect mess out of Christmas. We tend to picture Christmas as a sterilized holiday with peaceful nativity scenes and family dinners served on Christmas china. But the first Christmas was actually a lot closer to the messy, smelly experience that Robert had than our sanitized version.
The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth that we find in the Bible is a scandalous story of God breaking the rules. If you don’t believe this is true, think through the Christmas story for a second.
- A virgin gets pregnant
- A carpenter decides to stay committed with his suddenly pregnant fiancé
- The God who is bigger than His Creation became a baby human being
- Smelly shepherds tromp into town to visit a baby that has been born in a foul smelling animal stall
- And God even breaks the rules by choosing heathen astrologers to be the first official visitors to this miracle child
From every angle, the holiday that we celebrate every December 25 with candles, garland and bows, toys, and peaceful songs broke the rules.
- Maybe we need to take the time to stop and understand what the story of the birth of Christ really says
- Maybe we need to look unflinchingly at the scandal so that we can see Jesus as He really is and therefore follow Him as He really is
- Maybe we need to meet Jesus the Rulebreaker
That’s what we’re going to do in this series, and we begin today by seeing how with Jesus God broke the rules of nature.
SPLIT UP INTO GROUPS of 3-5 people
Break the ice into a delicious blended drink
- Say your names and quickly share about your favorite Christmas ornament.
- Pick a Discussion Mover (DM) for today. This person's job is to (1) be vulnerable (2) keep discussion moving (3) make the "do it" section as impactful as possible. You can nominate a DM, spin something to choose someone at random, or ask the group if you can volunteer.
- DM: briefly ask for what each person's expectations are for this discussion. Is this a place where we can be honest with each other? Do we want Jesus to speak to us? Are we willing to follow Him?
TAKE TURNS READING SECTIONS AND ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS
In this series, we’re going to go chronologically through the birth narrative of Jesus that we find in the Bible.
Matthew shares the story from Joseph’s point of view, and Luke shows us the prophecies of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus from Mary’s point of view.
Throughout the story, God broke the rules of nature.
- Elizabeth and Zechariah were too old to have children, but God miraculously made them the parents of John the Baptist.
- A star remained in the sky long enough to guide the Magi to where Jesus was.
- The Creator God came to earth as a baby boy.
- And in the most famous example of breaking the rules of nature, Jesus was born to a virgin girl named Mary.
When something goes against the way things naturally work, we notice
In golf, holes in one are rare. Has anyone here ever made one? Here are 3 stories of even more unnatural shots that were amazing enough to make the news:
Leo Fiyalko made a hole in one when he was 92. Oh, and he was blind. He only had peripheral vision in one eye.
Elsie McLean, at age 102, became the oldest person ever to make a hole-in-one on a regulation course.
During a round in New York Joanie Villecco and Ruthie MacDonald, two cousins, shot holes in one on the same hole. According to Golf Digest, the odds of two players in the same foursome making holes-in-one on the same hole are more than 17 million to one.
When something goes against the way things naturally work, we notice. That’s why the virgin birth part of the Christmas story is so important. But have you ever thought about why God broke the rules of nature to have Jesus born of a virgin?
Read Luke 1:26-38 and answer the following
What unnatural things happened to Mary in this passage? Why was an angel’s appearance unnatural?
What was Mary’s first reaction when the angel appeared? What would your first reaction have been?
What news did the angel give Mary? What was unnatural about this news?
Would you have accepted what the angel said in the end as Mary did? Why or why not?
making an entrance
The way God came to earth is astounding in many ways. If we were God, most of us would have made a grand entrance and commanded the attention of the world with our arrivals. But the King of Kings and Lord of Lords entered human history as a commoner. He was born in a common town and wrapped in common rags.
And he was born of a virgin. We hear this story so often that we forget how extreme it is. An angel broke into nature and told a teenager who was a virgin that God’s Son was in her womb. Then everything the angel predicted actually happened! This broke all the rules of nature. How could an angel suddenly appear? And how could a virgin get pregnant?
But this is what happened to Mary. The angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she was highly favored because God had chosen her to give birth to God’s Son, the Messiah. Naturally, Mary was “greatly troubled” (v. 29) by this declaration, because it wasn’t possible. At least, it wasn’t possible under the rules of nature.
But God had chosen to break the rules of nature (rules He had of course created) through Mary.
If you’ve watched the reality shows Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant , then you start to get a picture of the situation this put Mary in. She was a young girl who was not yet married, and within a few months it was going to be obvious that she was pregnant. The people who saw Mary would look at this as much more of a scandal than they would today.
But Mary accepted this scandal as God’s will. Once the angel explained what would happen to Mary, he also told her that God had broken the rules of nature with her cousin Elizabeth. This too was evidence that “nothing is impossible with God.” (v. 37)
Mary’s response was to obey and follow God. She said she was God’s servant and accepted what the angel had said. God was going to break the rules of nature through her life, and Mary was on board with that plan.
- Would someone share about when you obeyed God even when it looked unnatural to others?
Christmas points to the creator
God is above the rules of nature. That’s because God created the rules.
The Creator of the universe set into motion natural rules like gravity and inertia and so many more. The Creator is the one who determined how children were born. So the Creator is the only One who could break these rules of nature.
Through the truth of the virgin birth, Christmas points us to the Creator.
- Discuss: Why do you think God broke the rules of nature in the virgin birth?
Jesus is the Son of the Most High, the Ruler who reigns over Israel forever with a kingdom that will never end. Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah who saves Israel. The prophet Isaiah also said that the Messiah would be born to a virgin. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Throughout Jesus’ life, He continued to break the rules of nature. That’s what miracles are. With each miracle, He revealed not only He is God, He also showed us more about Himself.
The Power to Break the Rules of Nature
Jesus power to do the unnatural is great news, because at some point in our lives, we’re going to need a miracle. We’re going to need God to break the rules of nature and do something to help us. For one, we need Him to take the death in our lives and turn it into life. If God can make a virgin pregnant, He can break the rules of nature to bring help and healing in our lives. Christmas points us to the Creator, and we can trust Him to keep doing the unnatural.
- How did Jesus break the rules of nature during His ministry? Why did He perform miracles?
- How does knowing God as Creator help us to trust God? How does it help us trust Jesus?
- What does it look like to follow Jesus as our Messiah and King? What are some specific ways we do this?
- Does someone need a miracle in our group? (stop and and ask God for help)
More than a Cameo
Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and the Avengers, appears in almost every movie that features one of his characters? Stan takes a small role as a hot-dog vendor, neighbor, or mailman in these movies, and it reminds comic-book fans of who created the characters on screen.
We’ve seen today that the story of Christmas points to the Creator. Thankfully, God has much more than a cameo in not only the Christmas story but in the story of our lives as well.
God broke the rules to show He created the rules. Even more, the prophecy in Isaiah promises us that the Messiah isn’t just Creator and King; He is Immanuel, which means God with us. So we can go through life with Jesus our King right beside us.
Christmas points us to the Creator, and it reminds us that we are not alone.
1) UP: WITH GOD
Fans, Friends and Followers
The virgin birth is a shocking thing when you think about it. Yet many people — even people who are not Christians — believe it.
In 2004, Newsweek did a poll about Christmas, and the poll revealed that
- 79 percent of Americans believed that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.
- 93 percent of people believe Jesus actually lived
- 82 percent of people believe Jesus was the Son of God
But perhaps the more interesting information in this poll were what people thought the impact of Jesus is in the present day.
- 61 percent of people believe that there would be less kindness in the world if not for Jesus
- 63 percent said there would be less charity without Jesus
- 59 percent said there would be less personal happiness
- Are kindness, charity, peace, and happiness the best ways to measure the impact of Jesus in our lives? What else would you put on the list?
- The way to an unnaturally kind, peaceful, joyful life is to bring our broken lives to Jesus. When we start following Him, He gives us courage to break free from the sin that holds us hostage from the life of love God designed for us. Are we all choosing to follow Him? Pray with each other for this kind of courage in step 2 below.
2) IN: with EACH OTHER
Pray for the person on your left, that Jesus would give them courage to follow Jesus. If you don't want to pray, tap the person on your left. Please make sure everyone gets prayed for.
3) OUT: SOCIAL MEDIA FUN
Have you ever seen Christmas written as Xmas? Most people have, and many Christians get angry, feeling that this way of writing takes the Christ out of Christmas. But did you know that the reason this abbreviation first came into being was that in Greek, the first letter of the word Christ is chi, which looks like an X in English.
So X is not a way of taking Christ out of Christmas, because it can actually be another way of indicating Christ in Christmas.
So here's an idea. Post “Merry Xmas” to a few people on social media. If someone asks why you did this, tell them about how the X actually stands for Christ and how it reminds us that God broke the rules to send Jesus to us. See where the discussion goes, and look for where God is already at work in each person's life. Let Christ help you creatively carry out a next step that Jesus would do with each person.
This is an open group, so if you sense someone is ready to take a small step in following Jesus, please invite them to this group.
Should we do this? Anyone have a better idea?
Coming March 2015
The world is changing fast. Are you equipped to make a Jesus-like impact in your world? Go on a 3-month mission trip quitting your job, leaving your neighborhood, or hanging up your hobbies. This is a chance to invest time in the lab of learning and start to launch out in love with your neighbors.
A full 9-month mission trip starts September 2015.