December 3, 2017
Luke 1:14-15; Mark 1:1-6
There is a Christmas children story that turned 78 years old this year. This story became so popular that it turned into a cartoon. There’s even a song about the main character. Anybody know what story it is? It is the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. Do you remember what the story was all about? Rudolph had a red nose. No other reindeer did. In other words, he was a misfit! And how did the other reindeer treat him? They used to laugh and call him names. They didn’t let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games. Why? Because he was the misfit. He didn’t fit in with his red nose.
Until one foggy Christmas night, Rudolph’s red nose was needed. Santa called to Rudolph saying won’t you guide my sleigh tonight. That red nose that made him different, that made him a misfit, that they made fun of for so long was needed. Oh, then the reindeer loved him. Why did he fit in? Because Santa said so by needing him and using him.
There’s just something about Rudolph that we love too, isn’t there? Maybe it is because deep down inside, we sometimes can relate to Rudolph. Maybe it is because we sometimes feel like a misfit ourselves, and as a misfit we want to overcome, be useful, and be included. We want to show the world that we are special and that we have a purpose.
Today, we continue in our series called the misfits of Christmas. And we see a man who is kind of like a Rudolph. Last week we looked at Zechariah and Elizabeth, but now we turn our attention to their son, John the Baptist. This John was not John, Jesus’ disciple. That was a different John. John the Baptist was actually Jesus’ cousin. He is only located in the first half of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because halfway through the gospel’s, early in Jesus’ ministry John gets put to death. What we are going to see is that John, like Rudolph didn’t fit in with everyone else, but unlike Rudolph, John embraced the misfit role for a bigger purpose. The first thing we are going to see is that John was a misfit because of his calling.
Misfit because of his calling
If you were here last week, you remember the angel, Gabriel, appeared to a man named Zechariah. He told Zechariah he’d have a son, John the Baptist. And then the angel gave a description of John and his calling. Here’s what the angel said…
14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
John would be a misfit his entire life just by this description. The first thing we see is that he isn’t to have wine or other fermented drinks. Which to us is not that big of a deal. We know people who don’t drink alcohol. However, for the Jewish people, they drank a lot of wine. Not necessarily to get drunk, but just with their meals. You’d go over to someone’s house and they would get you a glass of wine. You had wine with dinner. Everywhere you went you had wine. Even children had wine diluted with water.
So imagine this. Zechariah and Elizabeth going over to someone’s house for dinner and they get wine for all three of them. Zechariah has to explain John can’t have wine. He’s a prophet from God. As he got older, people would ask him if he wants wine. He’d have to have that conversation over and over again. “No, I’m okay. I’m the forerunner to the Messiah. I can’t have wine.” Who knows, but he was a misfit because that’s what God called him to be. To not fit in.
Not only that, but look at the next description. He was filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. He was filled with the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit. He had a spiritual maturity that his peers didn’t have. So as he observed things he’s see the deeper spiritual issues that his friends just didn’t see. Think of the burden that was on his heart as he watched his peers “not getting it.” He didn’t do what they did or participate in their foolishness. So he didn’t fit in.
Maybe you’ve experienced that. Maybe you’ve been blessed with the Holy Spirit and a mature faith. And you have the burden of seeing your friends and family “not getting it.” Not understanding the spiritual side of things. Not realizing how serious sin is; not realizing life isn’t about how much money we make; not understanding where true peace comes from; looking for joy and contentment in all the wrong places. So you don’t always fit in because you aren’t pursuing all the things they are because you’ve found your contentment and peace in Jesus. It is a burden you carry.
This was John’s life. But he was also a misfit when it comes to his occupation.
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
None of John’s friends had their birth foretold. No one else would be the prophet who went directly before Jesus. No one else had this calling. Only John would be the forerunner to Jesus. Imagine John hanging out with his friends as they are growing up. One friend is going into the family business at the meat market. The other friend was going into the family business of carpentry. Then they asked John what he was going to do and he’d say, “My job was foretold in Scripture. The Old Testament talked about me in Isaiah 40. My job is to prepare the way for the Lord.” Who could relate to that? His whole life was a calling no one could relate too.
It would have been easy for John to sulk don’t you think? It would have been easy for him to despair. He could have secluded himself because he just didn’t fit in. No one could relate to what he’d go through in life. He couldn’t drink wine, he was more spiritually mature, and he was prophesied about in the Old Testament. No one could relate to his calling. Kind of like Rudolph, he was odd.
Have you ever felt that way? Nobody can relate to you because of the experiences you have had, the things you’ve seen, the things you’ve heard, the things you’ve done. Nobody can relate to what you’ve been through. Nobody can understand the burdens you carry on your heart. It is easy to despair. To separate yourself from other Christians because they don’t get it. And who is there whispering in your ear the whole time? Satan. The devil comes to you and tries to convince you that you don’t fit in. Why waste your time? They’ll never listen to you. So don’t bother.
That’s what the devil likes to tell us isn’t it? He likes to point out the ways that we are misfits and separate us from the group. Because if we are away from the group, he can easily separate us from Jesus. John could have sulked and despaired, but he didn’t. Instead he viewed his misfit qualities, the ones God called him too, and he used them to his strength.
John was an intentional misfit.
6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
As a pastor one thing that happens quite a bit is that when I go to people’s home to visit them, people will say, “Pastor, would you like something to eat.” And you all know I love food so I always say yes. I’ve had delicious pies, soups, cheese and crackers. John didn’t eat any of that. People would go out to visit him and if some nice family wanted to bring him some food from the city, he’d say, “No thanks. I have my locust and honey.”
Not only that, but people came out and saw he was wearing clothes made of camel hair with a leather belt around his waist to keep it closed. In case you were wondering, this wasn’t normal. This wasn’t the normal diet nor the normal fashion choice of the time. As much as Rudolph didn’t fit in because of his clothes, john didn’t fit in because of these things.
But he intentionally did this. God didn’t command him to eat this or wear this. Rather, John did this intentionally. Why? Because…
John knew the Old Testament. And he knew the Jewish people knew the Old Testament. There’s a prophecy located in Malachi 4, the last book of the Bible, that says God will send Elijah before his coming. Guess what Elijah wore? A garment made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. And so John embraced the misfit lifestyle and intentionally didn’t fit in order to identify with Elijah. The people recognized this and came out to him to see what he was all about. And that gave him an audience to tell others about the coming Lord.
None of us want to be Rudolph. We want to fit in. We want to be liked. We don’t want to be known as the crazy one who doesn’t fit in. And sometimes we do so to a fault. We may recognize that we are misfits and instead of embracing it and using that to tell others about Jesus, we try our best to fit in with the crowd. We try our best to blend in and be like everyone else. Instead of living like a Christian, a misfit in society, we spend more time trying to fit in with people that come in go instead of being secure, happy, and content that we fit into God’s family. John could have easily said, “I just want to fit in.” He could have drunk wine, he could have not gone before the Lord, he could have dressed normally. But he didn’t.
Because John knew…
John was a misfit with a purpose
He knew that the one was coming after him who was far greater than he was. There was one coming after him who was so great that he wasn’t even worthy to tie his sandals. That was Jesus. The Savior. And that was more important to him that fitting in with people. So John conceded he was a misfit, but the one coming after him was the one who’d make every one fit in. So he prepared people for him.
See, God knows everything about us. He knows everything about your life, what you’ve seen, what you’ve done, what you’ve heard. He knows what you’ve said. He knows it all. He knows the reality that we are all misfits. He knows it just as much as we do that we don’t belong in his family. That we are misfits in there because in order to be part of his family we have to be perfect. But despite knowing everything about us, God looks at you and says, “I want you in my family. I have a spot for you to come and join the billions of people of all time that are part of my family.” And at Christmas, he sent Jesus to accomplish just that. To come and live and die to take away all of your sins so that you are holy and fit right into his family picture.
And if you want proof. Look no further than your baptism. In your baptism, God washed away all of your sins. Every single one of your sins have been washed away, and you are now perfect in God’s sight. Clean of every sin. It was in your baptism that God declared you to be his heir writing his name on your heart as proof that you are part of his family.
Do you remember what was written on Woody’s foot in Toy Story? It was the name “Andy” right? It marked the fact that Woody belonged to Andy. That’s what baptism is for you. In your baptism, God said, “You are mine. I write my name on you.” And he forgave you all your sins welcoming you into his family.
The devil will come and try to tempt you. He will come and whisper that you are a misfit and don’t belong. But during those times, remember your baptism. When you do, it is like Woody looking under his boot to see Andy’s name. You can say to Satan, “God wrote his name on my heart in my baptism. I’m part of his family. And he is far greater than you.” As we reflect on these things, our hearts get prepared to meet our Savior once again on Christmas night.
Like John and like Rudolph, we may be misfits, but we are misfits with a purpose. We have experienced God’s grace, now we get to prepare other people for Jesus. We all have people in our lives who don’t believe they fit into God’s family because of what they’ve done or experienced. Grace enables us to go to them and say, “Look at my track record. But God says I fit in because of Jesus. There is room for you too. We are all a bunch of misfits that fit in because of Jesus, born on Christmas night.” May God be with you as you prepare your heart for Jesus and live as a misfit with a purpose.