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Last week we looked at the myth surrounding Christmas perfection. We saw the nativity not as a neat and tidy occasion, but an occasion filled with anxiety and uncertainty. It was anything but perfect. This morning we’re going to look at an aspect of Christmas few people have likely considered.
Hosea 3:1 says, “Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”
Christmas often is a time when family members from near and far come together to celebrate. We rejoice with one another and talk and have fun. We look forward to spending time with family we haven’t seen in a year or more. When I was a kid, we would travel to my Aunt and Uncle’s house. It was just over a two hour ride and it seemed like forever. We would see my five cousins and talk and ice skate on the lake behind their house and have a great time. We celebrate relationships. We long for those relationships. God created us with a desire for close, intimate relationships. That’s His design. Did you ever send a note to someone else with the question “Do you like me?” Check yes or no. Some people will do anything for a close intimate relationship – even compromising their most fundamental beliefs. When those relationships aren’t present in our lives we wonder, why not? It can lead to conclusions of self doubt. We wonder are we worth it? Will anyone ever love me? Those feelings easily transfer to God. Oh sure, we believe in Him, but does He really love me? We’re good at hiding our flaws and our failings from one another so people will like us and at the same time knowing that we cannot hide them from God. We hear His approaching footsteps, we see Him pursuing us, yet instead of turning to Him, we slink away.
The book of Hosea might seem to be a strange place to be in Scripture for Christmas, but it contains an incredible description of a relationship. Throughout history God has had a love relationship with His people – Israel. Time and time again, Israel ignored that relationship and was unfaithful, committed adultery, harlotry, and idolatry. Of all the people on earth, God had a special covenant relationship with Israel. Why Israel? On a global scale, Israel was small and insignificant. Israel and her people were continuously bullied by her neighbors. God did not choose Israel based on anything they did, on their morality, or their goodness. God relentlessly and passionately pursued Israel.
Hosea 1:2 says, “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.” God tells Hosea to marry a woman that no man in his right mind would want to be with. She was a harlot, a prostitute. God often tells us to do things that make no sense. What would you have done? Would you take a spouse guaranteed to be unfaithful? God created us in His own image and uniquely designed us for an exclusive relationship with Him and no other, yet we play the harlot with our consumerism, materialism, and self indulgence. Think about Christmas morning when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus – God with us. Children can’t sleep in the days leading up to Christmas and then on Christmas morning wake up in the pre-dawn hours and drag their weary parents out of bed. The kids rip into the presents one after another as quickly as they can without any thankfulness, without reflection, without any thoughts except give me the next one. We celebrate the birthday of the King by ignoring Him. What God wants is devotion to Him, not just on His Son’s birthday, but each and every day. He wants the outrageous love He has for us to be reciprocated. God’s message to Hosea is clear: “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel.” This is really beyond comprehension, but it’s what God desires. This is the Christmas miracle. Even though we have turned out backs on Him in favor of greed, materialism, idolatry, and selfishness . . . He still actively pursues us!
When we think back to Mary and the silence of that moment, I wonder what she must have been thinking. I’m sure the words of the angel echoes in her ears, “Favored one of God.” Even in the uncertainty and anxiousness of her situation, Mary trusted. Lu. 1:46-49 is known as Mary’s song. Listen to how she responds to this uncertainty. “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.” It didn’t matter what the community thought about her; it didn’t matter what they said. Mary knew the truth and she decided to trust in the promises of God. God promised to love you and never leave you regardless of the garbage in your life. Do you trust Him?
These are difficult times. Our country continues to decline in morality. Our leaders continue to depart from clear biblical teaching. Our churches are morphing into godless masses where anything goes in order that we don’t come across intolerant or judgmental. The money we earn doesn’t go as far as it used to and we are left wondering how we will make the ends meet. Maybe you’re facing illness and don’t have the opportunity for healthcare. Maybe your children are wandering from God. Maybe it’s just the grind of everyday life that pushes you off the path of earnestly pursuing God. Perhaps it’s difficult for you to comprehend the angel’s message to you, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Lu. 1:28) Will you choose to believe the truth of this greeting or will you believe the lie of our enemy that says, “You’re not worth it.” You’re too far gone for God to love you. We must turn to the standard of truth and recognize that the Bible is filled with people like you and me that mess up. Even in our mess ups, God relentlessly pursues us. In spite of ourselves, God runs after us.
How can you be outrageous in your love? I’ve often said the most dangerous type of person is one that professes to know Christ, but lives their lives in contradiction to the Scriptures. They say they love God, but they worship at the altar of personal desire and personal will. It is only after we realize where we are in relation to perfection that we can begin to see where God wants to take us. When Mary found herself in an incredibly difficult position, she went to talk with someone she trusted. I’m sure she was nervous. Have you ever had to tell someone something extraordinarily difficult? I’m sure there were butterflies in her stomach as she approached Elizabeth. “And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lu. 1:42) I wonder if this was the response she was expecting. This was a miracle of God and I wonder how many miracles are squashed because of the negativity of our family and friends. What if Mary had bowed to the peer pressure and failed to carry the miracle of God full term? We need people around us that will help us carry the miracles of God, to encourage us to keep going in the face of adversity; people that will hold us accountable. That’s why I believe our Community Groups are so important. When we are connected to others, it’s easier to understand and trust in the power of God when we see Him transforming other’s lives.
For Hosea, we don’t know if his wife Gomer ever gave up her adulterous lifestyle. All we know is that Hosea bought her back for 15 shekels of some silver and a homer and a half of barley. The hope that Hosea had was reflected in 3:5: “Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.” When forgiveness is offered, wandering people come back. God offers us mercy and grace even though we don’t deserve it. That’s the outrageous love of God through the Christmas miracle of Jesus Christ. That’s the kind of love we’re supposed to have for others.
Think about the most important relationship you have with someone. With your spouse or your parents, children, or friends. If these are just an inkling of God’s love for you, how outrageous must God’s love be for you?