From ‘Whatever’ to ‘What If?’

Immanuel: God with Us 

Pastor Jim Thomas

Matthew 2:1-12

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘What if Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?’”
– Dr. Seuss

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near:  a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” 
– Numbers 24:17

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
– Isaiah 9:2

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”
– Isaiah 14:12

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 
Too little to be among the clans of Judah, 
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. 
His goings forth are from long ago, 
From the days of eternity.”
– Micah 5:2

Moving from “Whatever…” to “What If?”

  1. Spiritual curiosity  (v. 1-9)
  2. Joyful pursuit  (v. 10)
  3. Grateful devotion  (v. 11)
  4. Dynamic obedience  (v. 12)

“If you’ve ever wondered how far the Lord would go to make sure you were His own, look down into the manger, look up onto the cross. There’s your answer.”
– Chad Bird

Discussion Questions

  • What does true worship look like? When the Magi encountered Jesus, they fell to their knees in awe and adoration. When we gather, are we actively joining our hearts and engaging in worship, or are we just going through the motions? What would keep us from responding to Jesus like the Magi did? 
  • What is the difference between happiness and joy? What attitudes lead toward joy? 
  • As we enter the new year, how can we shrug off spiritual lethargy, and stir up spiritual curiosity? What might that look like? While resolutions can be quickly forgotten, what are some ways that we can maintain a faithful walk full of spiritual curiosity, devoted gratitude and dynamic obedience throughout the year ahead?

“The power of a metaphor is contained in the fact that it ultimately points towards something that exists in reality. We cannot live on metaphors alone. We cannot use poetry, psychology and myth to hold God at arm’s length forever. What if the 2000-year-old story is only able to reconnect with our deepest desires for meaning, purpose and identity because it is the true story to which all other stories point?” 
– Justin Brierley, The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God

“Gospel narratives are telling you not what you should do but what God has done. The birth of the son of God into the world is a gospel, good news, an announcement. You don’t save yourself. God has come to save you.” 
– Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas

“It should be obvious by now that putting on the new nature is far more radical than attitude adjustments and behavior modifications. The life hidden with Christ in God is one of such growing union with God in love that God’s presence becomes the context of our daily life, God’s purposes become the matrix of our activities, and the values of God’s kingdom shape our life and relationships; God’s living presence becomes the ground of our identity, the source of our meaning, the seat of our value and the center of our purpose.” 
– M. Robert Mulholand, Jr.

“The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.… The real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us… lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation.… This is the real stumbling block of Christianity… But once the Incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.”
– J.l. Packer

“The only New Year’s Resolution I make every year is to collapse more fully on Christ. I trust in Jesus’ resolve, not mine.” 
– Jack Miller

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