Perhaps some of you were a little disappointed with the content of our service tonight. It may have seemed strange that we told the story of Ruth and Boaz instead of Mary and Joseph. “Didn’t seem very ‘Chrismassy’ to me; not what I expected” you might have said.
However, life doesn’t always happen the way we expect, does it? Naomi never expected her husband or her sons to die. Ruth never expected her husband to die and to have her life become entwined with her mother-in-law Naomi. No one prepared them to live as widows in a culture where one had to have a husband or a son to protect her. In addition, no one expected Naomi’s distant relative (Boaz) to fulfill the role of redeemer; marrying Ruth and providing protection and care for Naomi, as well as a grandson, who became the grandfather of the great King David, and the 24x great grandfather of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed. -Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. -Linus
Poor Charlie Brown; life is like that though, isn’t it? There is often a gap between what we expect and what really happens, which is what often leads to disappointment. Maybe some of you are disappointed in your marriages because they are not what you had hoped they would be. Still others of you are disappointed in what your life has become; it is not anything like you had dreamed about when you were young. Maybe for others, like Charlie Brown, Christmas has become a disappointment because you have recently lost a loved one, or you are going through economic hardship, or maybe you just think that God no longer cares for you.
Our disappointments, on the one hand, are an ever-present reminder of the brokenness of life. On the other hand, our disappointments are a reminder that we need a redeemer. One website psychologist offered this advice for dealing with disappointment: “We might try and prepare and devour some delicious food, with our favorite beverage… in the company of family, of lover, of friends. Also, we might try and do some magic breathing exercises of power, or we might try and do some more social sport, some swimming, or go and diligently till a garden, so that we may forget that our life is so boring, or so disappointing.“
However, like most of us know, escapes are momentary, but brokenness stays until we are put back together again. Boaz redeemed the brokenness of Ruth and Naomi by his action. The word redeem means more than just to buy or take back; it also means to repair, to restore, and to help. It is a beautiful word; and so Boaz was a redeemer to these poor women.
What we want you to know on this Christmas Eve 2013 is that the brokenness of your life can be restored by the One who is greater than Boaz—Jesus Christ. We are not saying that He prevents bad things from happening—like Sandy Hook, just a year ago—because our world is broken. We are saying, however, that Jesus can restore, repair, and help you in your brokenness. He has promised to those who trust in Him, “‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5)
This is the essence of what Pastor Martin Niemoller (himself a prisoner) preached to a bunkroom of skeleton-like prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp on Christmas Eve 1944: This is what is so singularly (unique) in the Christian message of salvation, which tells us, “You need not go to search for God; you should not imagine that he is far from you and is not concerned with what crushes you! He is here and is close to you in the man who, as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, was lying in a manger. All your need is so far from being alien to him that on the contrary he gave himself freely to bear it with you.” Whoever can grasp this in faith is not forsaken in prison and in death; for in the worst darkness he may say, “Thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me.”
An incredible message of hope embedded deep within a world of despair! Is Jesus Christ your Redeemer? Have you come to him in all your brokenness and sin and asked him to forgive you and help you? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
I close with this quote from J.C. Ryle, a 19th century Anglican Bishop and lover of God: Oh, you who want unfailing comfort, I commend you to Christ! In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when, after many a struggle, they attain place and power. They find out, to their cost, that it is more pain than pleasure, – that it is disappointment, annoyance, incessant trouble, worry, vanity, and frustration of spirit. But no man was ever disappointed in Christ.