do you have great Christmas plans how many raise your hand if you’re you’re going out of town you’re gonna drive out of town for Christmas go ahead and raise your hand participate helps it makes me feel like you’re with me okay there we go now raise your hand if you’ve got people family headed into town raise your hand if you have him all right and then raise your hand if you’re excited when your family will go back out of town raise your hand good deal okay here’s the deal road trips are a big part of the Christmas season I mean people love it and we’re going to go on a road trip of sorts as a church we’re going to do something we’ve never done before in this series we’re calling road to Bethlehem and it all started a few months ago when we were trying to plan for Christmas and Brad 9 Jason all the artists were sitting around going what do we do this year Christmas we realized we’ve been doing Christmas together for about 11 years which is wonderful but it creates some challenges if you think about it because there’s only one story that you have to tell during all the weeks of december for 11 years right and if you think about this i don’t know if you know this but every year he’s born in Bethlehem like every year you know and every year when you go to the inn there’s no room right so how do you do this in a fresh way so we partner what we’re doing is we’re partnering with a church in Chicago and their pastor mike bro and a church in in california called a real life church in a friend of mine named rusty and here’s what we did we sent them to israel like the real israel and they filmed on location they discovered some cool things over there and they did some teaching on location and they’re going to bring that back to us so every week when you come there’s going to be snippets of the teaching that are coming at you from them Israel right that’s pretty cool and then what we’re going to do is we’re going to flip the switch next year we’re going to do road to the cross and Brad and I are going to go to Israel and we’re going to do some teaching there and we’re super excited about that but here’s what I’m really excited about is we want to invite you to come with us seriously like we want to lead a tour of people to go over there so if you’re interested at all be listening for details on that will set the dates will make it possible for you to come and then as a group will go over if you and we’ll hang out at the sea of galilee together and then we’ll go to you know Herod’s place together and then we’ll go see where Jesus was born and we’ll do all those different things if you’ve ever thought man how cool would it be to actually be in the places that we read about in Scripture you get the chance to do that and Brad and I’ll do some teaching along the way and be really cool cool yeah that’s awesome okay so today then what we’re doing is we’re on location in Nazareth as we begin the road to Bethlehem and then over the the next couple of weeks we’re going to slip inside the stable and see how God came into this messy broken world and we’re going to go out on a hillside and we’re gonna meet some shepherds and we’ll discover some wise guys who were on a desperate search for a savior and along the way we’re gonna meet Jesus all right Emmanuel God with us so kick it off this week is a friend of mine rusty rusty may be a stranger to you but he’s not to me we’d known each other for probably good 15 years he did college men’s we did college ministry together down in Kentucky and then he went out to California and is leading a church out there amazing church Rusty’s incredible communicator incredible leader he’s an author and their church he’s actually come here before and spoken at 242 and their church actually gave some of the money that got our church started 10 years ago which is pretty cool so he’s has been a part of our church from the very beginning and so we know with no further ado let me introduce you to my good friend the man with two first names rusty George

one of my favorite stories about Jesus takes place right in this spot he was in his home church he stood up to read scripture that day and he read from the book of Isaiah he read a prophecy about what the coming Messiah would be like and at the end of it he said today that is fulfilled in me everybody’s jaws hit the floor as they said what are you talking about and he said I am the one who was said to come well everybody freaks out they think he’s blaspheming and they dragged him outside the church up this hill to throw him off this cliff for that crime and in that moment Luke records for us that Jesus looks at them and it’s as if for the very first time his glory is unveiled they see him for who he is they can’t even move and jesus walks right through the crowd and leaves I love that moment because it’s one of those great moments for people begin to see Jesus for who he really was and as great of a scene as that was it wasn’t always that spectacular in fact the way Jesus story comes to be takes place in a very unassuming and even very difficult setting because before that can happen some pretty unexpected things begin to happen in this town right behind me you see I’m standing right in front of Nazareth right now and Nazareth is a real town a real place and right now it’s the town of about a hundred thousand people but back when Jesus parents were growing up it was a town of about 200 people and it was a town that was often considered to be kind of redneck and kind of hick and people really never wanted to leave and I guess I kind of understand that because of the town that I’m from and even from some time in Kentucky people often look at people in Kentucky as a bunch of rednecks or Hicks or that kind of thing but the thing about living in Kentucky is if you grow up there you never want to leave there there’s such a deep sense of loyalty and pride in that place they don’t want to leave they want to grow up there get married there have kids there and die there well the same thing is true about Nazareth and that’s exactly the same goals that Mary and Joseph had Mary was a teenager probably around 16 years old and her plans were to Mary Joseph and have kids and raise a family and if if she was lucky one day see your grandkids if she lived long enough but to live in this town Joseph he wanted to marry Mary and he wanted to continue on the businesses father had passed down to him being a carpenter maybe one day pass that on to his son and if he was lucky you might get to see his grandkids as well but as much as they had their plans as much as their life seemed to be pretty normal their life began to take an unexpected turn Matthew chapter 1 18 says this is how Jesus the Messiah was born his mother Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph before the marriage took place while she was still a virgin she became pregnant for the power of the Holy Spirit and talk about an unexpected turn talk about a curveball Mary is about to become this pregnant unwed teen who everybody is going to think has sinned and I’m sure there are times Mary wish that angel would show back up again to explain to her mom or her math teacher or certainly to Joseph what exactly was going on but her only defense was to say I promise you this is God’s child and as much as news would have traveled fast in that small little town as much as her perfect little life would have come to a screeching halt and be filled with controversy the one person she was most concerned as to how he would feel was Joseph but God took care of that as well Matthew 119 says Joseph her fiance was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly so he decided to break the engagement quietly as he considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream Joseph son of David the angel said do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit so joseph has a plan as to how he will let Mary off the hook and everybody will go their separate ways but suddenly God appears to him in this dream and tells him I want you to continue on with this because this child is from me and you will raise this child and it’s a special

child and Joseph even though this is not your plan even though this is not the way you thought your life was gonna end up even though this road is winding I’m in this Matthew 121 says and she will have a son and you are to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins and all of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His Prophet look the Virgin will conceive a child and she will give birth to a son and it will call him Immanuel which means God is with us and when Joseph woke up he did as the angel of the lord commanded and took Mary as his wife now before we can fast-forward to the wonder of Christmas there’s a lot of twists and turns in this road they’re about to take there’s a lot of shook up people by this news in Nazareth Mary Joseph Joseph having to walk around telling everybody I promise you it’s not mine Mary walking around explaining the people i promise you that this is from god and yet through all this difficulty they have to stay focused on what it is they believe God is telling them to do and at the height of all of this confusion and fear and frustration that they might have suddenly now Joseph and Mary are called to go to Bethlehem for a census Luke 24 says and because Joseph was a descendant of King David he had go to Bethlehem in Judea David’s ancient home he traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee this could not come at a worse time Mary is probably about nine months pregnant and now she needs to ride on the back of a donkey about a hundred miles through rugged terrain to get to Bethlehem for this census you talked about the road taking all kinds of twists and turns and Joseph and Mary have nothing but their faith that take them through this I know there have got to be times on that road that they are thinking God where are you God how could you put us in this situation if this is really your child if this is really your plan wouldn’t it be easier wouldn’t it make more sense wouldn’t it be less frustrating for us to help bring God into this world and maybe you’ve been in a situation where you feel like God if this is really your plan why is it so difficult but here’s what I want you to see and don’t miss the symbolism here even though Joseph and Mary didn’t see Jesus initially they saw him eventually even though they couldn’t see Jesus initially in what they were going through they saw him eventually when they got to the end of that road you see Jesus name means Emmanuel which means God is with us and maybe what you need to know at whatever twists and turns you’re facing on the road that you’re on is that God is with you that’s exactly what Joseph and Mary needed to know and God kept them together God kept them on this road and they reached where they needed to go and even though they didn’t see Jesus initially they saw him eventually now I know there are times that you think oh that’s a story for a long time ago that happens to other people but I say it even still happens today they didn’t see Jesus initially but they saw him eventually you know what you didn’t see initially is what was happening around them as they were filming that segment rusty says that at one point there were a couple of motorcycles with huge loud exhaust that rumbled up in the middle of filming just to take a picture off the site there and then you know they went away and they went on with the filming he said a couple minutes later they’re starting over doing the thing again and he said there was a group of locals who may be religious leaders or something they all had robes on and they came up and they started to allow chanting and praying he said I didn’t how to explain it it looked like I was at a basketball game everybody was raising the roof and you know I didn’t know what was going on but they were just doing this and then eventually they went away and they went back to filming again and he said this was crazy because there was a tour bus that came along and a bunch of foreign people were dancing the macarena during this thing he said I didn’t know what was going on but you know you think about that that’s a perfect object lesson that God gives them right and gives us and that right when you’re trying to make Christmas meaningful right when you’re trying to to explain the meaning to focus in on who Jesus is what begins to happen life and noise and interruption and that could happen to us as well at Christmas time I found a poem

you ready for this I found a poem it says eggnog tinsel falling snow buttered rum and mistletoe trimming trees and hanging lights the sound of carolers fills the night shopping hours long and hard visa calls and cancels card unpaid bills and mounting debts family gathers depression sets Doreen drinking starts harsh words are said dysfunction rears its Yuletide head argument turns to shovin drunken brother punches cousin tree trips over popping lights curtains catch house ignites no one hears the reindeer cry wedged in chimney Santa dies now I was come on that’s just make believe that was just that was just a fun little poem they’re okay but the sentiment is true when we’re trying especially at the beginning of december and we’re looking and we’re imagining these wonderful photogenic moments and the meaningful times we’re gonna have together and then what happens like life happens we’re on this road to Bethlehem and it’s gonna be beautiful but then the next thing you know potholes and detours and obstacles life chaos noise begins to happen I don’t let you you ever driven around town and man you’re just thinking about okay we got to get a thousand and one Christmas cards out to a bunch of people I don’t even know right we got to do a bunch of a Christmas cookies that are going to go to 101 different parties that we’re gonna go to because you have to have an extra party with every group you’re a part of and then we got to decorate the house and then we gotta then we got to buy presents for everybody and then somewhere somebody had the idea let’s let the kids out of school in the middle of all this like who’s designing this holiday you know and while you’re fighting traffic and trying to fill and fight with shoppers you see a nativity scene somewhere out in front of a church or maybe in someone’s house and you you might have this thought be tempted to think wow wouldn’t it be great if it could just be like that first Christmas so peaceful so quiet but don’t be fooled because that first Christmas was anything but peaceful and quiet you think about the stress back then let me give you a couple of categories all right the relational stress Mary and Joseph were in their first year of marriage now the first year of marriage can be a wonderful time but it is usually also a very stressful time you think about your first year of marriage you have to figure out which side of the bed is somebody going to sleep on you have to decide is a toilet seat going to go up or down or up or down or down or up or up or down and where we going to squeeze the toothpaste is going to be in the middle are we going to do this we’re gonna have two different toothpaste how are we going to figure this stuff out right psychologists will rate the first year of marriage the changes that go with that as one of the most stressful events or seasons in our life that’s true go look it up they’ll some of them rate it up there with job loss and major illness now that’s kind of cynical right but the truth is it’s a wonderful time it’s wonderful to be married but it can be kind of a stressful time and that’s just the typical marriage these guys were anything but typical I mean put yourself in Joseph’s shoes and your betrothed comes to you and says hey I’ve got some bad news some good news the bad news is I’m pregnant and is not yours that’s tough and then oh but the good news is guess what it’s from god it’s a miracle you can trust me how hard would it be what kind of relational stress is there in that moment and like rusty said they’re in a small town of 200 a conservative town a religious town you know when word gets out that’s going to spread like wildfire hey Marge did you hear what happened to you know crazy stuff maybe you have relational stress going on right now some child that’s just struggling to find their place in life friendships distant maybe some people at work that you’re having trouble getting along with maybe the the pain of divorce maybe the relational stress that you’ll find a Christmas this year is that there’s one less person at the dinner table and I know for me like if you lose somebody at Christmas time or if you lose somebody throughout the year sometimes sometimes there’s something about Christmas that just you think you’re kind of getting over it but there’s something that just about Christmas that

just kind of brings it back there’s a relational stress involved with Christmas list about physical stress physical stress joseph was born in Bethlehem that’s a little suburb of Jerusalem but he lived in Nazareth that’s a little less than a hundred miles between the two that’s a journey that they have to travel you talk about physical stress think about a journey when one of them is nine months pregnant that’s crazy i remember when rachel know when rachel is pregnant with joe we traveled back to wisconsin for her house for Christmas right I mean that’s crazy we stopped no less than 80 times ok it’s not that long a journey you know but you’ve gotta you gotta stop and go to the bathroom a little more you know regularly and you have to do the back stretching kind of thing and you have to do the cravings get the pickles in the ice cream and all that kind of stuff right I think about that now Mary may have written on a donkey but it wasn’t likely go read the story again it’s not mentioned in the Bible became a tradition over time but it’s actually unlikely because we know that Joseph and Mary were pretty poor I’ll tell you how we know that in just a little bit but they were pretty poor and those who would travel by donkey or camel the only people that could afford that where people of means it could very well be that this nine-month old teenage pregnant girl nine-month-old nine month pregnant teenage girl walked talk about swollen ankles ladies come on walked for four week for at least a week by the way that’s that’s about how long it would take a week journey they have cars back then and think about the physical stress of being hungry along the way you know they didn’t have fast food they couldn’t just stop at the next exit do we even know what that’s like we went down the Thanksgiving went down Cincinnati for Thanksgiving this year it’s where my family is and we went on thanksgiving day in about lunch time we said we’re going to stop but an accident eat at a restaurant which for our family is a big deal because we gave we gave up restaurants for devoted and so we can go to a restaurant when we do an overnight trip so we’re on this trip and we’re getting excited about restaurants and my kids were like where do you want to go kids like I want to go to arby’s know my favorites Taco Bell no I want to go to wendys we have really high standards in our family okay but my kids are doing all these three and i’m so excited about restaurants and thanksgiving if they will go to all three and we did because when we went to arby’s it was closed for thanksgiving and then we went to taco bell it was closed for thanksgiving and then we went to wendy’s and it was closed we had to find a starbucks and everybody cake pops the whole time I mean it was no I’m just kidding we found a little dying in place but I mean you start to get this feeling of what man everything shut down what would it be like to be on a journey and you couldn’t just grab food these folks had to beg for it they had to to gather it they had to hunt maybe just the physical stress that they had to go through do you go any physical go through any physical stress here at the Christmas time or this time of year I know a couple of weeks ago when we have 16 and a half inches of snow I mean that’s some if you don’t have a snow blower we didn’t have a snow blower that’s a lot of physical stress for my children right that is that’s rough it’s good for him it is well think about think about holiday travel cooking and cleaning extra cooking and cleaning because you got people coming over physical stress of decorating your house right you take all the lights that are on the inside and put them on the outside you take all the bushes and trees from the outside and put them on the inside it’s crazy what we do it’s crazy physical stress what about financial stress and I’m not trying to be a downer I’m just saying like just think about all the things that can pop up and detour us from this road to Bethlehem and if we’re not careful we’ll let the stress creep in in such a way that we never get there we find ourselves it’s January February and we go a man how did we miss it how do we miss Jesus in this whole thing what about the financial stress Joseph was a carpenter no unions back then no union benefits no paid time off no vacation days back then so when he took time off work he lost wages then add to that the extra expense of the travel there’s this financial stress on top of a family that didn’t have much to begin with I told you how we knew I told you I tell you how we know that we know that because when a family would come and dedicate

their child at the temple the normal sacrifice was you would bring a lamb that’s what everybody did but Leviticus made provision the law made provision for those who were poor in Leviticus 12 8 it says if she cannot afford a lamb she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons and guess what sacrifice Mary and Joseph brought doves and pigeons so these are folks are poor you finals you have financial stress this time of year credit card debts businesses that are not quite out of the hole that happened a few years ago uncertainty about the future you remember why they’re going to NAS or why they’re traveling to Bethlehem in the first place because Caesar Augustus is calling for a census why does the government call for a census because they want to be able to tax people better these guys are looking for oh my goodness I mean we’re prob we don’t know financially are they going to raise taxes what are they going to do you ever go through that I mean maybe it’s credit card debt buying gifts for people that you’re saying I’m not even quite sure how we’re going to pay for this guys I don’t know if it’s physical emotional financial whatever stress you come through my hope is that through this series and that through this season at some point you will arrive in Bethlehem and you’ll meet Jesus who is God with us and so since I’ve stirred the pot just a little bit and talked about all this stress let me at least give you one little ray of hope and that is this matthew 122 says all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the Prophet that’s the prophet Isaiah the Virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel which means God with us that’s our hope is that even though Mary didn’t see Jesus in the moment didn’t see him initially because she traveled with him eventually she saw him because he was with them will you become aware and will you let God travel with you on the road to Bethlehem on the road to life I share that prophecy with you because you need to know that Isaiah Isaiah prophesied 700 years before Jesus came on the scene and we know that I mean go look at the Dead Sea Scrolls you just go google it you said what somebody just wrote the Bible and you know what no go look at the Dead Sea Scrolls they found this very prophecy and others surrounding it that were dated back anybody like non-christians will tell you was dated back a hundred years before Jesus was born so no problem thinking that was another 600 years even if it wasn’t another 600 years just that somebody would prophesy that somebody be born in Bethlehem or die the way Jesus died or lived the way Jesus lived all these specific things about Jesus life 100 years before Jesus is on the scene even a skeptic has to go wow it’s like God is in control it’s like God is real it’s like God is moving through history it’s like even behind the detours God has a purpose even amidst the potholes of life God is there Jesus is Emmanuel God with us I don’t know if you needed to hear that this month but but I think a lot of us do that God is with us let me share one thing with you Paul said this in 2nd Corinthians 4 16 18 this is therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we’re being renewed day by day for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all and so we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal

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