Yesterday I preached a sermon called “A Scandalous Christmas.” The title change was a last minute change from my previous title: “I like mine a little on the trashy side.” I had three people very close to me encourage in me that direction. Since I figured I could have been wrong to unnecessarily offend folks, I willingly, though somewhat begrudgingly, changed it.
And I’m glad I did. But what ended up being more controversial than the song-I still referenced the song “The Trashy Side”-was the fact that I attributed it to George Straight instead of Confederate Railroad. That might be the last country song reference I make. If I do, I will be sure to google its origin!
I first heard this passage preached-actually the only time I’ve heard it preached at mega-church Northland in Orlando, FL. I was in seminary at that time, perhaps 7 or 8 years ago. I couldn’t believe how scandalous the genealogy really was. God didn’t shy away from the scandalous and would use people such as I in His plan of redemption.
Then I forgot about the message. I don’t think I necessarily ignored or forgot the truth altogether. But in some sense it didn’t seem to resonate as much. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to preach during the advent season and even on Xmas Eve (this Xmas will be my first time preaching on Xmas Sunday), but never even thought about the passage again.
I don’t think this is all that abnormal. While its not abnormal to forget such a passage as this, it is terrible.
Let me explain. We realize that our lives are messed up and sinful. Some of us look worse than others on the outside-though we’re all in the same boat in reality. Then God says, “I can forgive your past, present, future, and offer you my righteousness in place of your sin and trash.” And we’re declared righteous and holy.
Then our life changes a bit, and we think we really ARE righteous and holy. We forget that we are DECLARED righteous and holy NOW, but that one day we will BE righteous and holy. But not now.
Someone told me that he preached this passage for Mother’s Day and got quite an uproar from the church. Perhaps it wasn’t the best timing on Mother’s Day? But people get really offended when you talk about God’s love for trashy people. And its God’s people who seem to get most offended.
They forget how trashy they really are. Jesus is just as offensive to religious people as he is to irreligious people. As much as it might make us uncomfortable, we have to talk about God’s love for those who are, according to the world’s as well as the church’s eyes, trashy. If we never talk about such people (and thus keep everyone feeling good and comfortable), we will never believe the truth that by faith God STILL washes such people. Prostitutes, adulterous, murderous people do by faith enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (I Cor 6:9-11). If we never talk about such folks, we will very quickly forget this truth.
When we’re offended by the mention of God’s love for prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, all of which he clearly displays in the scripture, then we can rest assured it’s not out of an elevated concern for God’s Holiness, but an idolatrous celebration of our own.
God doesn’t stop showing love for trashy people even though His people, including myself, often have. But this Xmas, remember your Savior entered the trash to save-and continue to save-trashy people. And his character doesn’t change.
God does like His women and men a little on the trashy side.