Imperfect Christmas: Imperfect Places Study Guide

In week two of our special holiday series, “Imperfect Christmas,” Pastor Doug Sauder explored the seemingly imperfect setting of the Christmas story as well as some other imperfect places the Lord used throughout history. In this message, we saw how God uses imperfect places to do extraordinary things, how He turns imperfect places into holy ground, and what all of this means for our lives!

Watch the video below to see a few highlights from the message and share it with your friends via social media. To watch the message in its entirety, click here.


FOR THE NOTE TAKERS

Let’s recap some of the key talking points from Pastor Doug’s message this weekend:

The Places God Chooses Will Tell Us About Him: In Micah 5:2 (NKJV), we’re told that Bethlehem is “little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Bethlehem, the city of David, was not a major place. It wasn’t like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or Tokyo; it wasn’t Rome, Athens, or Jerusalem. It was a small town that had little cultural, economical, or political influence in the world. And yet, in this place, in a stable . . . that’s where the Savior, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords was to be born. What does this tell us about God? It demonstrates that He is humble.

Jesus didn’t come in His full glory or in an intimidating way on a flaming horse or in a blaze of glory. He came as a helpless infant—fully human, fully divine—born to a poor young couple from Nazareth. He experienced everything we experience, He knows our every struggle, temptation, and pain because He humbled Himself and took on flesh. Frederick Buechner said, “Once we’ve seen Him in a stable, we realize there is no length He will not go to reach us.”

Interestingly, Bethlehem is first mentioned in Scripture as the burial place of Rachel (Genesis 35:19). In 1 Chronicles and Judges, we see it was at one time a place of violence and war, but by the time of Ruth, it had basically become a place of obscurity and famine—the “House of Bread” (the literal Hebrew translation of Bethlehem) had no bread.

Naomi and her family left Bethlehem and went to Moab to find a better life, but her husband and sons died there. Have you ever gone to a new place expecting to find something better, but it only got worse?

We sometimes live places where it seems the enemy is at work. We feel deep disappointment over where we are. But here’s the thing . . .

God Chooses Imperfect Places to Do Extraordinary Things: Did you know “hope” is used in the Bible for the first time in Ruth chapter 1? But it’s used in a negative sense. Naomi thought there was something wrong with her, and thus she was without hope. You see, hope is like oxygen to the soul. If we don’t have enough of it (or any of it), it can feel like we’re drowning, like we’re gasping for breath, for relief and clarity, but none comes. And when we look to our setting and our circumstances, to the places God has us or the station in life we find ourselves in, we often find that the grass is greener on the other side. This is called “destination disease.”

When we’re constantly looking at the grass that looks greener from where we’re standing and fail to see the seeds being planted and the work being done by our Father right where we are, it has a tendency to erode our soul and choke away our hope. But what would happen if we went all in right where we are? What would happen if we stopped putting our hopes for satisfaction, joy, peace, and fulfillment in our setting and circumstances and instead placed them firmly on the person of Jesus Christ? True and unshakeable hope is rooted in the character and nature of God, not in anything earthly or temporal.

When we hope in the Lord, when we trust in His promises, even if we remain in the place that seems hopeless, even if we’re on a long and winding journey to another place, God has a history of showing up on the road, on the journey, and walking with us! Just look at what He did in Bethlehem for Naomi and Ruth! This is the place where Ruth met Boaz, her kinsman redeemer. This is the place where David was anointed king. This is the place where Jesus, our Lord and Christ, was born, showing us that . . .

God Turns Imperfect Places into Holy Ground: God reveals Himself to Moses in a burning bush in a very common place. It became holy ground. Why? Because His presence flooded that place! You see, whether it’s a desert by Mount Horeb, Bethlehem, a kitchen, dorm room, hospital room, office, or refugee camp, when God shows up it becomes holy ground!

Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale used to be a warehouse for a computer company. Since then, God has used this place to bring thousands of brothers and sisters into His family by the saving work of His Son. When God shows up, nothing is ever the same!

So, what is that imperfect place in your life that God wants to make into holy ground? Is it your house, your car in traffic, your cubicle at work, the gym? God wants to use you to flood these places and spaces with His glorious presence. In the same way His angels filled the sky to praise Him and point the shepherds to His Son, He wants to use us to radiate that same kind of praise and point people to His Son right where we are.

Quote to Remember: God determines the times and places we are born and live so we would know Him.—Pastor Doug Sauder


12-DAY CHRISTMAS READING PLAN

Visit YouVersion and check out this year’s 12-day devotional reading plan that goes along with our “Imperfect Christmas” series. In this plan, we’ll take a fresh look at the Christmas story and discover that we don’t have to be perfect or have it all together to come to Jesus because our perfect Savior came to us! To subscribe today, click here.


BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR JESUS

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”—Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

On Christmas, we’ll celebrate the birth of Jesus. And as we all know, no birthday party would be complete without a gift! For the third year in a row, as our church gives a birthday gift to Jesus, we have the opportunity to radically change people’s lives and make a difference on a global scale. We invite you to be part of this initiative by giving to help support this year’s effort. We’ll announce what we’re giving to Jesus during our Christmas celebration services and on Christmas Eve!

Click here to give.


INVITE SOMEONE TO CHRISTMAS

Our Christmas celebration services are this weekend! Did you know that personal invites from friends and family are the number one reason people visit a church for the first time? So, be sure to personally invite someone this week. You never know whose life can be changed by a simple invitation!


A LOOK AHEAD

Join us this Wednesday as we continue our discussion from the weekend as part of the “Imperfect Christmas” series.

It’s our favorite weekend of the year! Come experience the joy and wonder of Christmas as well as a variety of great festivities as we celebrate the birth of Jesus together. Be part of this special time as Pastor Doug Sauder shares an inspiring word!

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.