Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Several weeks ago, my family got out one of our puzzles and decided to do it together. This particular puzzle is a Star Wars puzzle, and the trouble with it is almost 80% of the puzzle is some shade of black. (Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slightly!) Anyway, I never knew that there were so many shades of black! Luke’s robe is one shade of black, which is a different shade of black than Palpatine’s robe. And of course, both of those are different than Vader’s black helmet, which is entirely different than the black night sky in the background.
But guess what all of these shades of black look like to me when I’m looking at all 1,000 pieces dumped out on the table? They all look black! See, when you look at the completed puzzle after hours and hours of work, you can see how each of those pieces fits with the others to form this great scene. But when you have all 1,000 pieces scattered all over the table, it’s a bit overwhelming. And why wouldn’t it be overwhelming? To see the pieces jumbled and disjointed, to see the pieces upside down and twisted every-which-way with no real pattern to them is both overwhelming and frustrating!
2. But do you know what’s interesting about this puzzle analogy? It’s a lot like the way we experience life, isn’t it? Life around us is chaotic. Often times is jumbled and disjointed to the point where we have difficulties trying to make sense of the bigger picture. For example, when a loved one dies, we often try to make sense of what’s happened by looking for the good, saying things like, “They’re in a better place” or “They’re smiling down from heaven on me.” Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to be an optimist, but it is a bad thing when we use platitudes like these to cover over our pain. When a loved one dies, deep down inside there’s real pain, there’s confusion, and we find ourselves broken and unable to put together the pieces of our life and see how the Lord is working. The same can be said of a job loss, a serious injury, or a difficult diagnosis. When we’re in the midst of life’s difficulties, it’s hard to see how the Lord is orchestrating it all together. The reality is, we’re helplessly incapable of putting together the pieces of our lives.
3. But even when we can’t put together the pieces and see how the Lord is working, he is still working, and he has a plan. The first verse and a half of our Epistle Reading for this morning capture this beautifully. Let me read them again: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2a). Now, I’ll admit, at first glance you might be wondering what this has to do with anything but bear with me. In these two verses, the writer of Hebrews is showing us how the Lord works. I think that the RSV translation captures what’s being communicated quite nicely: In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets. Note the manner in which God spoke through the prophets: in many and various ways. In other words, the writer is describing God speaking a fragmentary message by the prophets without telling the whole of it—a lot like a puzzle. But the writer continues: But in these last days he has spoken to us [definitively, I might add] by his Son. The picture is this: throughout Old Testament times, God was speaking through the prophets by throwing to earth metaphorical puzzle pieces. These puzzle pieces were scattered throughout the centuries, and it wasn’t until the coming of Jesus that the pieces began to fit together. The end of verse 3 of our text says: He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that he was the final piece of the puzzle of God’s salvation plan. But more than that, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father upholding the universe by the word of his power. He’s not just the final piece, he’s the one putting it all together.
4. You know the thing about puzzles…they’re almost impossible to put together unless you have a picture of the finished product and/or someone who knows how the puzzle goes together is there to help. And that’s what makes it so difficult to make sense of our lives—we haven’t put the puzzle together before and we don’t have a complete picture of what it will look like in the end to work from… But Jesus knows how it all goes together. To us, our lives seem like a broken, jumbled, disjointed mess. But, in Jesus, God is putting together the pieces of your broken life into something more beautiful than you could ever imagine. That doesn’t mean we’ll be able to see it on this side of eternity, but as we go through the ups and downs of life, we can trust that it’s true. This is the message of Christmas—God has spoken to us by this son. In Jesus, he has entered into history and is beginning to put together the pieces and make sense of it all according to his plan from the very beginning.
5. In our Gospel Reading, we heard these words: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The Lord is at work in history. The Lord is at work in our world. The Lord is at work in your life. And his invitation to you this morning is to trust in that work. Trust that he is in control because Jesus rules and reigns, even over the darkness and chaos of this world. When you trust in him—not using platitudes to mask the real pains of this life, but when you truly trust in him, the peace that passes all understanding will be yours in Christ.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.