Approaching Bethlehem, Yawning
by Pastor Gene
In the introduction to his Advent devotional, Come, Let Us Adore Him, Paul David Tripp illustrates how familiarity leaves us underwhelmed by the Christmas story. He asks us to imagine that we’ve moved into a new area and decide to take our dog for a walk. On the way, we encounter a beautiful community garden filled with roses. We’re blown away, exhilarated by its beauty. We can’t wait to tell others what we’ve found. We want to bring others to that very spot and show them our new discovery.
But then, after passing the garden a number of times, something happens. Our senses are dulled. We begin not to see it at all. The roses, the gift that they are, become seemingly invisible. The newness of them dries up. The deep reds and yellows and greens seem drained of their color.
Tripp writes, “Familiarity has done this to you; what you once celebrated, you now don’t even notice. Sadly, many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Sadly, many of us are no longer gripped by wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. Sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves. We walk by the garden of the incarnation, but we don’t see the roses of grace anymore. Our eyes have gone lazy and our hearts have grown cold … Other things in life capture my attention and the allegiance of my heart. Other things rise to levels of importance in my mind, that are way beyond their true importance. And when other things capture and control my heart, little room remains for wonder and worship.”
I think he has it perfectly right. Familiarity is certainly the challenge of Advent. The story – the facts of it anyway – are well known. But yet the full power of the story is known by none but God. The coming of Jesus into the world sent shock waves reverberating in sharp concentric circles throughout the universe from a tiny feeding trough in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
And since that morning, nothing could ever be the same.
The Son of God has come into the world to save sinners. No one who has come to know Him should be underwhelmed by this.
The prophet/messenger spoke of a still-future day when joy would manifest itself so profoundly that it would cause God’s people to dance. “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). The truth is, if we really understood the glory of our salvation, that would be our ‘every’ day.
As we enter this season, let’s fight against the dying light of familiarity. Let’s rail against it with clenched fist. Let’s refuse to let anything – the desires of the flesh, the craftiness of the devil, or the world and all that is in it – keep us from skipping like lambs as we consider all that our heavenly Father has done for us!
This year, let’s absolutely refuse to approach Advent with a yawn.
To consider . . .
- Have you become familiar with the Christmas story? Has familiarity caused some of the Christmas colors to drain from your eyes?
- What can you do to rail against this familiarity? Can you think of a strategy that might help you keep the season fresh and spiritually vibrant?
- I am intrigued by Paul David Tripp’s comment that “our eyes have gone lazy.” Is this true? Is the reason we’re having trouble ‘seeing’ the garden that we’ve stopped tending it long ago? Has it become overgrown with weeds because of our lack of attention? Is it time to do a little radical gardening?
- Wonder leads to worship. Without it, our worship becomes dry and brittle. Do you find yourself worshipping as you should? Is it time to talk to God about this? To ask Him to break your heart afresh?
Sermons with Boats in Them #2: ‘Dark Night was the Night and the Sea was a Fury – Tempestuous, Turbulent and Threatening.’
March 29, 2020