Christmas Special:
The Faith Journey(07/12/02)

By Dr. Robert A. Schuller

In 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 journeys.

In 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 shepherds.

This 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 an angel?

Here is this young virgin girl who has just been betrothed.

We 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 or announcement.

So 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.

  "Behold, 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." (Luke 1:30-31)  

This announcement was what all of the Jewish believers had been waiting for ... the coming of the Messiah.

So 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.

Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth, her cousin exclaimed,

  "Blessed is she who has believed that which the Lord has said to her, will be accomplished." (Luke 1:45)  

Then came the moment when Mary felt the baby move within her. She felt the tangible and, with God, she would achieve the impossible.

There are three thoughts from this Christmas journey for us to use as we build faith for life's journey:

1) Believe in the invisible

2) Feel the tangible

3) Achieve the impossible.

Mary's journey really began the moment she believed in the message that the angels gave to her.

Now the good news is that every single one of us has an announcement from an angel. It is a "calling from God."

I 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 of anybody.

If 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.

I'll 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."

"What was that?"

He 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."

He 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."

I 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

Still 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!

There 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

I 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.

God 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

When 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.

The 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.

That's 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.

There's 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.

But 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.

There 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

The 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.

And 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?'

And Miska said, 'No, I don't have a mama and I don't have a papa.'

And Jesus said, 'Would you like to come stay with Me?'"

Miska continued to tell the missionaries his story in such a winsome way.

I 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?'

And Jesus said, 'There would be nothing in the world that would make me happier than if you would make me warm.'

And 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 lifetime. Jesus

Christ says, "Don't leave ME behind. Together we make a great team."
So today, 1) believe the invisible ... 2) feel the tangible ... and ... 3) achieve the impossible.

Prayer: 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.

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