Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
They are also in the power of your thinking.
- God could never use me.
- I don’t have what it takes.
- I’ve seen my best days.
- I am too messed up!
- I am unworthy.
These expressions have either been said or intimated to me countless times by men and women in my thirty-five years of ministry.
Death words. Death thoughts. Leading to everything opposite of life.
Without minimizing the importance of some of the profound statements made by the Christmas-cast members found in Matthew and Luke’s accounts, what may be of more significance is what their simple inclusion in the story itself says. The Magi, shepherds, Joseph and Mary, etc. address some of the most destructive “self-talk” in which we are susceptible to—all of which limit us from fulfilling God’s greatest designs for our lives:
- I’m too old.
- I’m too far gone.
- I’m too bad.
- I’m too insignificant.
- I’m too skeptical.
What do the Christmas cast-members say about these things?
- Age is no restriction in God’s economy.
You may think you are past your prime, washed up, that your ship has come and gone. Not too many seniors are getting job offers other than being greeters at Walmart. Your life is now about biding time and waiting to be with Jesus.
Tell that to the Christmas cast members found in Luke 1 and 2. Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s parents, were both “well along in years.” Anna the prophetess was a whopping eighty-four. (That’s old considering the average life expectancy during Jesus’ time was 35-40 years of age!). Each one of these individuals, however, had critical parts to play in the story of Jesus’ birth.
- Brokenness is no barrier for ministry in God’s kingdom.
Maybe you think you are too messed up. Too fractured, too scarred, . . . too wounded. You may say, “I have multiple diagnoses. I am on countless medications. I am in constant pain. I’ve been in therapy ten years and am still a long way from being healthy. I can’t keep a job or a relationship. I am just too far gone.”
Tell that to the Wise Men in Matthew 2. They were some 600-800 miles from Jesus. That is like half-way around the world by today’s standards. Danger from hostile tribes and wild animals, inclement weather, and inadequate rations of food and water all made the odds of making such trip next to impossible. While the Magi’s distance was geographical, it serves as a metaphor telling us that there is no distance—mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual—that is too great for God to overcome. No one is too damaged that God cannot heal.
- Past sinfulness is no disqualifier in God’s selection process.
Maybe you have said to yourself, “I’ve done too much wrong. I’ve hurt too many people and burned too many bridges. I’ve been a thief, liar, and cheat. I’ve disgraced God. I don’t deserve anything. All I am is a piece of %$@#!”
The shepherds found in Luke 2 speak to us here. Shepherds in Jesus’ day were looked upon as unclean and outside the law. They had the reputation of being the used car salesmen of the day (no offense please!). Known for their dishonesty, they would often graze their flocks on other peoples’ land and cut corners in their business dealings. And they, of all people, go front and center stage in the drama!
- Ability is no limitation for usefulness.
Perhaps you think, “I’m nobody special. I’m not educated. I don’t have any real skills or talents. I’m socially awkward. I don’t have connections or money. So many other people are more capable. Besides, my family is an embarrassing lot of uncultured, unbecoming, unemployable people. What would God want with me!?”
That was exactly Mary’s reaction when she was told that she would be giving birth to Jesus: “He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:48). “Who? Me!?” She was shocked that God would notice her—someone of such “low estate, standing, . . . littleness.” Because of Joseph and Mary’s desperate financial condition, they were permitted to offer the less expensive sacrifice for the first born, two turtledoves or pigeons
- Measure of faith is no threat to God.
You say, “I don’t score high on the BQ scale (believing quotient). I have trust issues. The Christian thing about doing exploits for God may work for some, but not me. I’m just not a person of faith.” Maybe your heart has been broken in a failed relationship, or skepticism is simply part of your nature.
Zechariah’s inclusion in the Christmas story is good news for those whose default setting is doubt. In spite of all his prayers, his first instinct was not one of belief when the angel Gabriel told him that his barren wife was now pregnant. True, he was promptly silenced for the rest of his wife’s term because of his snarky response (something Elizabeth might have appreciated!), but God was merciful. His authority was not overlooked as the new father (he confirmed the name of his son), and he even got a gospel song recorded and preserved in his name! (Check it out in Luke 1.)
If God’s selection of the motley crew found in the Christmas story teaches us anything, it is this: God likes to use odd balls, misfits, people on the “spectrum,” those that would never be given any serious consideration for a real role on the stage.
You may feel like your best days are long gone. You may think that your discretions and mistakes of the past disqualify you. You may believe that your physical challenges and quirkiness are too much for God to work with. The voices inside your head shout, “You are not enough!”
The Christmas cast members have an important message for us, “Losers welcome!”
In fact, God wants those “most likely to fail.” He is actually biased toward the under-handed, under-represented, and under-privileged.
Father Greg Boyle puts it bluntly, “Jesus was an equal opportunity pisser-offer.”
Think about it: God deliberately discriminates against “first round picks” and leans towards, as the late Brennan Manning quipped, ragamuffins.
News which may be hard for a few to appreciate, but wonderful news for the rest of us!