my father's new book entitled, My
Journey, there are wonderful stories of how in his
life's journey God made a dramatic impact. God also impacted
my life and countless others. So I want to share with you
today some other journeys ... because we're all on different
this Christmas season as we read again the birth of Jesus
Christ, notice the journeys of people who participate in
this true story. There is, of course, the journey of Mary
and Joseph to Bethlehem, then the journey of the wise men
following the star, and the journey of the angels and the
morning I want to focus on the journey of Mary's visit to
her cousin, Elizabeth, after the angel announced to her
that she, a virgin, was going to bear a son. Can you imagine
how startled Mary must have been to receive this news? From
is this young virgin girl who has just been betrothed.
must realize that a Jewish betrothal is like a marriage.
It's far more than an engagement where there is a receiving
of an engagement ring and saying "yes" to a marriage
proposal. The Jewish betrothal celebration resembles a wedding
where friends and family all gather together. But after
the betrothal ceremony the man and woman each go their separate
ways back to their parents' homes. One year later the marriage
is formalized, and the man takes his betrothed to his home
and they become husband and wife without any other ceremony
the Virgin Mary has been betrothed and Joseph, her husband-to-be
has returned to his own village. Then suddenly an angel
comes to young Mary.
you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son,
and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and
will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord
God will give Him the throne of His father David."
announcement was what all of the Jewish believers had been
waiting for ... the coming of the Messiah.
surprised was Mary that God would choose her that she made
the journey to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary needed
her cousin's perspective. Elizabeth was a devout woman with
great faith - and she, too, was pregnant. Mary began her
journey believing in the invisible.
There was no scientific way she could prove that the angel's
announcement was real. But she believed what the angel proclaimed.
Mary believed the invisible.
seeing Mary, Elizabeth, her cousin exclaimed,
is she who has believed that which the Lord has said
to her, will be accomplished."
came the moment when Mary felt the baby move within her.
She felt the tangible and, with God, she would achieve the
are three thoughts from this Christmas journey for us to
use as we build faith for life's
Believe in the invisible
Feel the tangible
Achieve the impossible.
journey really began the moment she believed in the message
that the angels gave to her.
the good news is that every single one of us has an announcement
from an angel. It is a "calling from God."
discovered my calling when I was five years old, much like
my father shares in his book, My Journey. He was five years old when his uncle ruffled
his hair and said, "You will be a preacher when you
grow up." I received my calling when I was five years
old, because that's as far back as I can remember. I've
always know that I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up.
I believed it. In spite of the fact that I was absolutely
the most terrified person in the world to get up in front
the teacher called on me in school, I would put my head
down and pretend like I didn't hear her. I would pretend
to be writing, so I wouldn't have to stand up to speak.
I never participated in any class discussions throughout
high school and college. Never! I would never raise my hand
and ask a question. If I had to get up in front of anyone
to speak, it was the most unbelievable, tormenting experience
I could ever expect to have in my life.
never forget the first sermon I delivered. It was in a small
little church in Missouri. I was in college when I was asked
to preach that sermon. I'll never forget how I telephoned
my father and I talked to him for advice and he said, "Robert,
just don't make the same mistake I made."
said, "Well, for my very first sermon, I thought that
if I have twenty points and I speak for a minute on each
point, I will have a good message of twenty minutes in length."
said, "I started speaking and five minutes later I
was still on my first point ... so I only got through my
first four points. I never finished the sermon."
decided I wasn't going to make that same mistake. I organized
my first sermon with only five points. But when I delivered
that sermon, five minutes later I was finished.
1) Believe in the invisible
I believed in the invisible. I believed that God had called
me to preach, to be a pastor, in spite of my terror. I believed
it. When you and I believe, because of our belief, we take
the steps necessary to accomplish the dreams that God has
for us. That's called building
faith for life's journey!
comes a time in life that as we move forward in faith we
know that somehow, someway, God's truth will be revealed.
We begin to feel the tangible.
2) Feel the tangible
entered seminary, literally and absolutely scared to death
to get in front of anybody. Then I was asked to speak to
a ladies group. After all, it was expected from seminary
students. So the ladies in the church asked me if I'd speak.
And I was obligated. I would have to step forward and do
it sometime because I was going to be a pastor soon. I'll
never forget how my father and I approached on the platform
together. And as we stepped to the platform, for the first
time in my life, for some reason I'll never know why, I'll
never be able to explain it, I just felt this peace suddenly
rush through me. And from that time forth I believe ...
I truly believe ... I received a gift from the Holy Spirit
of God, Himself. He cured me and I'm not afraid to stand
in front of people anymore to speak.
cured me, but not until I needed it. Not until I proved
that I was going to believe in the invisible and step forward
in faith and do it. Not until I was in seminary did God
give me the keys and the gifts to allow me to speak.
3) Achieve the Impossible
you start to feel the tangible you can truly understand
that you can achieve the impossible.
It just takes a little bit longer. It requires more faith
and more diligence.
angel ended her announcement to Mary with these words: "Nothing
is impossible with God!" (Luke 1:37) And Mary
knew it truly was God who came and visited her. God was
achieving the impossible through Mary.
true for every single one of us. God calls us for a purpose.
It is invisible, but we know somehow, someway it's what
we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to go. And
as we move forward with faith, the tangible become real
and we begin to realize that with
God all things are possible.
an old Russian fable about the wise men on their journey
to visit the Christ Child. And on their way they stop at
this bed and breakfast. The woman in charge is so busy that
she never notices they are following a star. When they explain
their journey to her, where they were going, she is too
busy to pay attention.
as the story unfolds, Babushka suddenly realizes that this
is a journey she also must take. So she decides to follow
the wise men. She gathers all of the toys of her son who
had been killed many years before and begins her journey.
She tries to catch up with the wise men, but according to
the legend she does not find them. In fact, by the time
Babushka arrives in Bethlehem, the Holy Family has already
left for Egypt. And the Russian legend tells us that she's
still wanders from house to house today looking for the
Christ Child. And as Babushka goes from house to house,
she gives some of her son's toys to all the boys and girls.
Today she still continues her search for the Baby Jesus.
is another Russian story, a modern one. In 1994, some missionaries
went to Russia to tell the Christmas story to the children
there. They visited an orphanage where they told the story
of the Baby Jesus born in a manger. Then they gave the children
an opportunity to use their hands to make a manger scene.
With some cardboard, the children made the manger. Then
the missionaries helped the children cut up some yellow
paper napkins for straw to put in the manger. With Popsicle
sticks the children made the Baby Jesus, drawing his face
and putting the baby in the manger
children were so busy making their manger scene as the missionaries
continued to tell the Christmas story. Then when they went
to check each child's handcraft they noticed one little
boy who had two babies in the manger. And they asked him,
"Misha, why do you have two babies in the manger?"
And he responded by telling the entire story about Baby
Jesus, how Mary had been talked to by angels and how Joseph
and Mary went to Bethlehem.
then Miska told how when Mary put Baby Jesus in the manger:
"Baby Jesus looked up at me and said, 'Miska, do you
have any place to stay?'
Miska said, 'No, I don't have a mama and I don't have a
Jesus said, 'Would you like to come stay with Me?'"
continued to tell the missionaries his story in such a winsome
wanted to go stay with Jesus, but I didn't have anything
to give Jesus. So I thought and thought and thought. Then
I said to Jesus, 'I could make You warm. Would you like
me to make you warm?'
Jesus said, 'There would be nothing in the world that would
make me happier than if you would make me warm.'
so I crawled in the manger with Jesus to make Him warm.
And Jesus said that I can stay with Him forever and ever."
Jesus Christ calls us. He calls us to stay with Him and
allow Him to be a part of our vision, our dreams and our
quests for whatever it is that God gives us to do in our
says, "Don't leave ME behind. Together we make a great
So today, 1) believe the invisible
... 2) feel the tangible ... and ... 3) achieve the impossible.
O God, I thank You that You are present in my heart and
mind. I know the reality of Your goodness. You turn the
invisible into tangible. You can turn impossibilities into
possibilities. So I continue my journey hand in hand with
You. Together ... You and I ... thank you God for Your love,
for Your hope and Your joy. Amen.