The Darkness of Lack

1. Our Story

Globally we have been living through a unique period of darkness, marked by uncertainty, isolation, and disappointment. The promise of Christmas is the entrance of God’s light into the darkness we feel and experience. John describes the coming of Jesus like this:

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1.9

This enlightening was simply a deposit of information – this enlightening was revelation of God.

Jesus didn’t come as a philosopher like Aristotle, a lawgiver like Moses, or a religious leader like Muhammed; Jesus came as GODS TRUE LIGHT because He is God Himself. Jesus himself is God’s deposit of HIMSELF into the human condition.

When we receive Jesus, we received God’s light; if we reject Jesus, we’re not only rejecting God’s light, we’re rejecting God himself. We’re declaring – thanks but no thanks, God; I can do this on my own!

All this talk about the light of God reminds us that – this has been a dark year!!! As a result of this global pandemic, we have faced a variety of kinds of darkness, and one of those is financial lack – all of the lockdowns and shutting down big sectors of the economy has produced a climate of financial insecurity.

You may be amongst the people who have felt financial pressure during this pandemic. You may have lost your job; or maybe you’ve been furloughed. t might be your not getting as many hours. It’s been a tough year.

2. My Story

Many of us have had times in our life financial need; some of these are quite difficult. I remember when I was a uni student, at one particular, there just wasn't enough money. I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant and was assigned the closing shift; getting back to the uni flat at 1am ior later and getting up on time for an 8.00 class … that’s tough.

I also remember the first year Jean and I were married. We were both university student ministers funded through the financial partnership of people who gave so we could do ministry. Most campus ministers are barely making enough, and I remember being excited about joining our two incomes together. But after we got married and combined our finances, by the end of the first year, we had somehow only made less than what either one of us should have made on our own.

So for those who find themselves in a moment of financial difficulty right now, I get it; I've been there.

3. The Story

As we go to the Bible and look at the Christmas story, our text of focus is found in Matthew 2.1-15. I'd like you to notice two dynamics surround this episode.

First, the BIG IDEA of Christmas is that GOD GAVE JESUS. And so from this we get the pattern and the principle of giving.  Christmas is a time for gift giving, and the idea giving gifts means there is more than enough. And Christmas is about God giving the BEST GIFT EVER.

Second, the reason God had to give was because there was need. And what we see at Christmas is that God gives not just to meet spiritual needs, but material needs . But Mary and Joseph and Jesus – they started out by needing outside intervention. Right at the beginning, they were in a moment of lack, but God provided for them.

The need in this situation is financial; Mary and Joseph are instructed by an angel to flee to Egypt to save the life of Jesus who is under threat from Herod. They had already been displaced due to the census; this is why they are in Bethlehem. Presumably Joseph found work; there is no hint of deep need or poverty up to this point. But now they are being sent to a foreign nation to live as refugees until it is safe to return.    

And then something great happens: strangers showed up and in a moment their situation went from poverty to prosperity. Magi from the East come bearing gifts - expensive gifts - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There may be some prophetic dimension to this - gold for a king, frankincense for the priest, and myrrh to anoint the body that is the sacrifice. No doubt this would have been confirming to Mary and Joseph as they tried to process all the amazing events happening in their lives.

But practically, this wealth would have sustained them in their sojourn in a foreign land. Don't misunderstand me. Jesus IS God's great gift, and these Magi gifts to him powerfully and prophetically proclaimed his identity. Jesus is the king, the priest, and the sacrifice, and He was going to bring salvation. But in the mean time, his family needed to eat. So the financial need of Mary and Joseph was provoked by their flight to Egypt; the provision of God came through the Magi gifts.

Sovereignty.  Before making application to us, the key thing I would like you to notice is that God acted ahead of time to provide for his son. We don't know exactly where the Magi were from and we don't know exactly how old Jesus was when they arrived. But it is likely God began working in their hearts to draw the Magi to Israel before Jesus was born - maybe long before. The point is that God is able to get his provision to us at the right time; he has already prepared provision for needs we don't even know we have yet.

4. Our Story - Redeemed

This is the good news: The same God who provided for Mary and Joseph and Jesus through the Magi, he also provides for us. Look at these beautiful promises from scripture:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.19

God will provide! And not just a little - the promise is that God will provide every needThat's good news! But note the context: this letter is a thank you note for the Philippians participation in giving. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul uses the Philippians to provoke the Corinthians to give. Look at how Paul describes this
The context – their giving: Paul describes this in :

For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2 Corinthians 8.2

In other words, the promise of God’s provision was in the context of their generosity. In the middle of their own poverty they were willing to give sacrificially, and IN THAT CONTEXT Paul says, ‘my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus’. Philippians 4.19

And I believe this includes material provision, but even more importantly is the spiritual provision God has given us in Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 8.9:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

God gave Jesus so that by his poverty we might become rich. Now, this does does not mean that if you follow Jesus you’re going to get financially rich, although I do believe that God blesses those who follow him. That’s what we were just looking at - God brought financial blessing to Mary and Joseph so they could faithfully fulfil their ministry.

The point is that God gives us MORE THAN financial provision. When Paul mentions God meeting our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ, he's not talking about some room in heaven where God keeps his gold. The riches of God is his spiritual riches in Christ; he has nothing more valuable to give than himself.

The gospel is that Jesus became poor for our sake, giving up the riches of heaven and stepping into the poverty of the human condition so that we might share the riches of eternal life with God.

These are God's true riches, and they are ours in abundance. But this doesn't mean God doesn't care about our spiritual needs. He does. And he promises to take care us. And this gives us great confidence in an uncertain world marked by the darkness of lack.

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