What a fun day.
I saw people I hadn’t seen in fifteen years.
I met people for the very first time.
I got to throw diapers around on the platform.
I was able to celebrate a new baby with the gathered congregation.
My new friend who is an atheist returned — and brought his dad.
I got motivated by the Good Shepherd worship leading choir.
And I delivered a message that I had liked all week with a bottom line that I think will stay with people: You have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably.
Since my kids are now 25 & 22, it has been a long time for me, but I still remember what a hassle it was to travel with small children ANYWHERE. A lot of you are living this right now. And I even brought some stuff with me to show you how hard it is. Like you got this: DIAPER BAG. And you hook that over your shoulder, making sure it is filled with diapers (of course), formula, bibs, towels to wipe up spit up. But with the DB, you are just getting started. Then there is the CAR SEAT. These were a big deal 25 years ago and now I understand they are like 10x more secure – and 20x harder to get in and out. And don’t forget this: STROLLER. Because you know you can’t take a trip to Myrtle – or even to Rivergate! – without this contraption. And then the most cumbersome of all: PLAYPEN. Admit it: almost every parent here has dreamed of having a child you could just plop in there and they entertained themselves the rest of the day in their little nylon prison!
The best thing about all this stuff is when they outgrow it. Our lives got so much better when they no longer needed car seats! Bigger deal than potty trained! And ultimately they get to that age when they get their drivers licenses and it’s like DONE! I have only seen my kids like once or twice since that happened. But lugging all this stuff around and the human children on top of it! is so inconvenient and uncomfortable to go across the street much less across the continent.
And yet poor Joseph – that’s exactly what he had to do. The baby invades his life and every time that he settles down in the early section of the story, each time he gets REMOTELY comfortable, BAM he has to get up and go. Lug all his stuff and get moving. It starts with that very first uncomfortable word that Joseph gets while he is asleep: she’s preggnant. So in Matt 1:24,
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
he wakes up, gets up and took Mary to his home in Bethlehem. That trip, as you know, he didn’t have to take with the stroller, but he did have to travel with a very pregnant Mary who rode his . . . donkey all the way to Bethlehem. Which is where Jesus is born. Which is where they settle in as a little family – they’ve got a pediatrician, Jesus has had some play dates with the kids in preschool (who are so much more temperamental than he is!), and wonder of wonders some wise men have come from the East – until they get ominous news. Look at 2:13:
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
“Get up.” And so what does he do in 2:14?:
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
Note that “Get up / Got up” pattern because you’ll see it again.
But do you know what was involved in “got up”? Packing all his baby stuff, all their animals, and oh yeah, Jesus & Mary as well, and walking over 300 miles ON FOOT from Bethlehem to Alexandria, Egypt, where we know from history that many Jews settled in Egypt. Dangerous walk. Hot. Difficult. With a crying baby. Without Motel 6 or police escort. And note: they had to leave during the night. Urgent, chaotic, dangerous. Why? Look at the end of 2:14: “to kill him.” Because if they had stayed in the comfort of Bethlehem, it would have killed them.
Now fast forward a couple of years and five verses to 2:19-21:
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
See that “Get up / Got up” there? After establishing themselves in a Jewish enclave in Alexandria, now they have to load up the SUV, put the DVDs on the back of the front seat, make sure there’s no fighting because Jesus probably had siblings by now, and they had to make the weeks-long trek home. Just when they’d gotten settled in Alex, God uproots them. That’s TWICE! In an era in which most people never ventured more than 10 miles from the place they were born.But you figure, at least this time they are going back home (and making it so that in coming up from Egypt, Jesus is the new Moses!). But then it happens again. Joseph and family get to Bethlehem, find a place, unload, get the cable hooked up, start to rest comfortably, and then it happens:
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
He HAD to be like AGAIN?! (And at this stage, if I was Joseph, I would be pretty tired of all these dreams.) It’s not even a Herod threat this, but an Archilaeus one. But immediately they have to get up, load up, back up and go another 80 miles to Nazareth. Which was exactly nowhere. It’s not like they loaded up the truck & they moved to Beverly; more like moved to Beckley. WV.
So you see the pattern and it’s not by accident. Over and over and over, at the prompting of God, Joseph has to leave whatever little sense of comfort & routine he has developed and instead has to embark on an arduous, dangerous trip into the unknown and unpredictable. The baby his life and constant, inconvenient movement is the result. When you know to look for the pattern, it leaps right off the page at you.
But you know what else? Look at the reasons why. Every time Joseph and family became comfortable – Bethlehem, Egypt, Bethlehem again – if he had stayed he would have died. In comfort there was guaranteed death. And I see that, I recognize that pattern, and something else leaps off the page: God needs him to live dangerously so he doesn’t die comfortably. The baby invades your life and one of the first things he does is to prod you, to move you, to unsettle you, to uproot you all because he knows: You have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably.
Because here’s what I know: there are people in this room today who are slowly but surely dying in their comfort. And God brought you here today to tell you exactly that: you may not have Herod on your tail pursuing you to death, but a lot of you have an even greater enemy. YOU. Now sometimes it is the result of risk aversion, sort of like the Activision company of a generation ago. They made games for the Atari 260 (AV) And the CEO was surrounded by some young, smart whippersnappers who were encouraging him to move the company into making games for the PC market. But the CEO answered, “We’re not in the floppy disk business! We’re in the cartridge business!” And now they aren’t in any business. They died. Comfortably.
But then there is the more pernicious and the more personal, the ways we have comfortable with our status quo. I know there is probably a handful or more husbands in the room who have grown comfortable with this pattern: neglect, neglect, neglect, EXPLOSION, apology, brief change . . . neglect, neglect, neglect. I know it’s here because I’ve seen it more times than I care to count. I know there are husbands here who have grown comfortable navigating marital crises that way and what you don’t realize is that it is killing your marriage – and your wife – from the inside out. You think each one blows over and it’s “all good” but it’s not: the damage is there and the damage is real. By the same token there are wives here who in the wake of that kind of treatment have grown comfortably numb. And the kind of numb is all too often a prelude to reckless and self-destructive.
And then others of you here are comfortable with your level of alcohol use – which is HIGH. It’s how you make it through the day – although it’s sure to make the # of your days shorter. And still others are comfortable with your level of marijuana – you’re planning a move to Colorado, you’ve bought the lie that it’s not harmful, you don’t even think it makes you less ambitious! And probably upwards of 30% of the guys in here have internet related addictions. The thought of living life without it is terrifying to you. It’s killing you, it’s making you hollow, it makes you regard people as objects, but it’s all you know.
And then finally, at Xmas, some of you are even comfortable with a casual sort of “wave at Jesus” faith. Like the person who told me “I guess I’ll be a baby Xn all my life” and that is slowly but surely killing you cuz it’s not Jesus’ design for you. You’ve grown comfortable in your own dysfunctions and if the early chapters of Matthew tell us anything they tell us comfort kills. You have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably.
Which is why that annoying, invasive baby keeps Joseph loading up and getting out. Keeps him on the move. Because the scary news of Xmas is that when Jesus enters in, he poses so many dangers. He is a specialist at uprooting and unsettling. And part of me hates this! I love my routines! It wasn’t until 2006 that I left the world of dot matrix printers and a black computer screen with orange letters (AV). Golly, it was just last year I traded in my eight tracks for cassettes! It’s why my first answer to the Zoar offer in 2013 was “no.” But man, when Jesus enters in and you get saturated in his word and you realize how dangerous he is to your routines, how he wants to protect you from yourself & your complacency.
Like he is so dangerous to your money. Because he moves you to realize it’s not yours to begin with. He’s dangerous to your gossip. Because he is that conscience who reminds you the tongue which delights in spreading stories was designed to offer praise. And then for a lot of you the baby invasion is to get you to load up all the debris of infant Xnty. You know, I realize that sometimes we make it too easy here. We don’t even pass the plate. It is such a Catch-22 – we want it easy so we are welcoming of all but some people get so comfortable in that that stay put. It becomes all about you! I just long for people to have a hunger for the deeper, purer things of God. Like the little boy who won a bible memory contest and his mom asked him his prize was. We get to learn more verses! he said. How about that? For us? Yeah, I’m talking about time daily in the Scripture. I’m talking about LifeGroup involvement. There is a reason we have named one of our goals as Moving To Maturity. You don’t Static your way to spiritual maturity. You move your way to it! And sometimes if you’re not moving on your own, God will move you for you. .You have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably. You live your life so much free-er of regrets that way.
Because, really, there’s something much larger than you at stake. Joseph had to be protected with these moves and by these moves because the Messiah hadto live and he had to be the 2ndMoses. Sometimes your dangerous obedience has precious little to do with you and a precious lot to do with a larger cause. Some of you know that before the Civil War, Harriet Tubman (AV) was an escaped slave. But did you know she returned to the South 19 x after her escape? Nothing safe about that! But a bigger cause. Where is it with you? Is it volunteering at Room In The Inn to get over your fear of people who are homeless? Is it the Charlotte Rescue Mission to get you less comfortable with your Saturday mornings? Is it here, working with Children’s Min to get you over your fear of kids? You have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably.
And speaking of kids, you know what? I’ve had two. Guess what I notice? Sometimes we are so protective of them as if our role in life is to insulate them for every possible danger the world holds. To protect them from seeing the world as it is. What comes out of that? They get a Safe God. A Private God. A Me God. A God totally alien to the pages of Scripture. How about instead you, from the earliest of ages, let your kids know the vastness of God and their indispensability to be part of his redemptive plan. That their comfort and safety is not God’s highest priority! Like the little boy whose father is a pastor and before bed one night the boy asks, “Pray that God will keep me safe tonight, daddy. I’m scared.”
And dad answers, “No, I’m going to pray that God makes you dangerous. That when you walk into a room, Satan and his legions have to flee. That’s what I’m going to pray.”
Me too. Because you have to live dangerously so you don’t die comfortably.