Christmas Day sermon, December 25, 2022 Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, Alabama
Grateful appreciation to Steven Ferber, a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota, whose sermon, “Mr Irrelevant” was the inspiration for this sermon.
Good morning! Please open your Bibles to Matthew 1.
Well, this is the beginning of the last week of 2022, which means, of course, that every time you turn the TV on you’re going to get a “Best of 2022” list. I was scrolling through ESPN.com this week, looking at their top ten of 2022 list. There were all the ones you would expect—Argentina winning the World Cup, Serena Williams retiring from tennis, Lebron James becoming the first NBA player to reach 10,000 career points, rebounds, and assists, and so forth. But one item on the list took me down a rabbit hole where I learned about something I had never heard about before.
December 11: Mr Irrelevant Beats the GOAT.
Now, most of you probably know what the GOAT is. Greatest of All Time. And in the NFL, most people consider Tom Brady to be the greatest of all time. Seven Super Bowl rings. 330 career starts.
But I had never heard of Mr Irrelevant. Mr Irrelevant is the title given to the last player chosen in the annual draft of the National Football League. The award was created in by a former NFL player-turned-millionaire businessman Paul Salata, who died in 2021 at the age of 94. In 1976, Salata got together with some of his friends in the Los Angeles area and raised money to fly the last man picked and his family to southern California, where they would be treated to a day at Disneyland, be the Grand Marshal of the Irrelevant Parade in Newport Beach, the guest of honor at the Mr Irrelevant banquet, where they would be presented with the Lowsman trophy, which is like the Heisman Trophy, only instead of a running back stiff-arming the competition, it’s a wide receiver fumbling a football. Over the years, Irrelevant Day in Newport Beach has morphed into an entire week that includes a sailing regatta, a golf tournament, and a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
So here is a short clip from the 2022 NFL draft. This is what you miss if you turn off the draft after the first round, when all the Alabama players get drafted:
Brock Purdy. Iowa State. Who up to two weeks ago had not started an NFL game. But on December 11, not only did he get the start, he also became the first rookie in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown, and a passer rating of 134 in his first career start.
And he beat Tom Brady, had never lost to an opposing quarterback in his first start. And he didn’t just lose. The Niners beat the Bucs 35-7. Mr. Irrelevant put on a clinic! In the post-game interview, Brock Purdy said:
“I mean honestly, for me, I just kept telling myself, dude, this thing ain’t over with that guy on the other side of the field,”
He’d seen Brady make crazy comebacks throughout his career, and he was determined to put the GOAT down for the count.
Tom Brady was a senior at the University of Michigan the year Brock Purdy was born. And just when you thought the story couldn’t get any better, Brock Purdy was born at Christmastime. December 27, 1999.
2,000 years ago, another baby boy was born, one that the world might have written off as Mr Irrelevant. Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary.
Matthew 1:18-25 tells us that
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
A backwater town. Dirt-poor parents. Scandalous circumstances. A people who had been enslaved and exiled and scattered throughout history, who at the time were living in a police state under an oppressive regime.
Powerful, relevant people don’t come from circumstances like these. In the eyes of the world, this Jewish nobody would be the last person you would expect to alter the course of world history. People would expect him to do what all poor Jewish boys would do: follow his father’s footsteps, learn carpentry, live poor, bow to the Empire, and die forgotten.
He certainly didn’t look like He would be anything special. The prophet Isaiah said that
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
Years ago, in 1926, a pastor named James Allan Francis preached a sermon to a convention of the Baptist Young People’s Union in Los Angeles. You’ve probably heard this portion of it before, but if not, listen to these powerful words:
There was a man who was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman.He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book, but more books have been written about Him than about any other subject.
He never held an office, but politicians everywhere place their hand on a copy of His words when they take their oath of office.
He never owned a home, but he is the cornerstone of many homes.
He never had a family, but he is the centerpiece of many families, and the best foundation you can build a family upon.
He never went to college, but the most prestigious institutions of higher learning around the world were founded in His name.
He never put his foot inside a big city, but cities everywhere, from the largest to the smallest, hold revivals each year to tell people about this man’s love.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born, but His followers have gone to the ends of the earth with His message.
He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
But While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. Another betrayed him.
He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed upon the cross between two thieves.
His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth while he wasdying, and that was his coat.
When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen wide centuries (twenty now!) have come and gone and today he is the most influential figure in the history of the world, and the leader of the column of progress.
I am underestimating when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon the earth as powerfully as has this one solitary life.
There are two names given to this baby boy in Matthew’s gospel.
The first is in verse 21: You will call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. God told Joseph to give his son the name Jesus—Yeshua– meaning the Lord Saves, because it defined His purpose for being born: to save us from our sins. Jesus died, He rose, He ascended to Heaven so that we, who were enemies with God, could be reconciled to Him.
And if all Jesus had done was save us from our sins, He would still be worthy of all praise. He would still be the most important person who ever lived. He could have defeated sin, crushed Satan, ascended back into heaven, looked at us and said, “Good luck! See ya when you get here!” And that would have been enough.
But there is another name given, and this one changes everything:
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
Jesus didn’t just die for us. He lived for us. He lived with us! He set an example for us to follow in His steps. And he promised to be with us always, even to the end of the world. We don’t just have a two thousand year old book of his teachings. We have His presence.
God did it all because He loves you. You are not irrelevant. You are not alone; life is not a game of chance. Your life has purpose. Think of it – 8 billion people in the world, God knows you personally; He knows your name.
The night before Thanksgiving, James Michael Grimes from Lafayette, Alabama fell off a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. He had been on the ship with eighteen of his family members, yet they didn’t realize he was missing until 12 hours later. For 20 hours, he treaded water, with no flotation device, alone in the dark.
As night began to fall on the second day, Grimes spotted the lights of a passing oil tanker, and he took off his socks and started to wave them. Incredibly, he was seen, and a short time after that, he was rescued by a coast guard helicopter. The rescue diver that got him in the sling said later that he believed Grimes was only minutes, maybe seconds, from going under. He had nothing left.
I wonder if any of you have felt that way this year. Maybe you are drifting this morning, wondering if anyone even sees you. Maybe you feel alone after a loss this year. Maybe, in the midst of all the celebrations and Facebook photos of families gathered together, you are wondering if anyone would miss you if you weren’t here.
I have to wonder if, at some point while he was treading water in the Gulf of Mexico, James Michael Grimes thought to himself, “I was on that boat with eighteen of my family members. Didn’t any of them notice when I didn’t come back from the bathroom?
And so maybe you are wondering if God is the same way. Does He see you? Does he know where you are? if He does, does He care? Will He help?
Hear these words from the prophet Isaiah:
43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Good News – God does see you, even in the darkness. He does love you. He sent His son Jesus to pull off your rescue.
Don’t be afraid, don’t give up. Call on your Redeemer, the one who named you His child, through His Son Jesus. Repent of your sins, turn to the Savior, trust in Him alone, the only path to salvation. God is with us, in the waters, through the rivers, in the fire.
Immanuel! God with us. You are not irrelevant. You are loved. And if you have been rescued, you now have a part to play in God’s rescue mission for the world.
1 Timothy 2:4 says that “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God doesn’t want your neighbor just to be fed and clothed, but to live forever in Heaven, in God’s presence, by putting their faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Many of God’s people all over the world are taking the Great Commission seriously, by sharing the Gospel, even in dangerous places. We’ve been sharing stories of missionaries each week this month as we have talked about the Lottie Moon offering for International Missions. And if you haven’t yet contributed to that offering, I urge you to be a part of God’s rescue mission. There are so many people who are lost at sea right now. You have a part to play in rescuing the perishing.
[Play missions video]
You are not irrelevant; you have new life in Christ, God born in the manger. And because you are part of the body of Christ, you are now part of God’s Plan A to reach the nations. There is no Plan B. You have great purpose, a great calling. God may or may not call you to cross an ocean with the gospel, but he is certainly calling you to cross the street with it. See your neighbor as one for whom Christ died, to be a brave witness by inviting them to see Jesus, born in the manger, for them, so they know they are not irrelevant; they are loved, just like you.
Merry Christmas! Amen.