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The Christmas Plunge

God's willingness to step into our mess comforts us—and calls us to a new standard of living.

From the editor:

Who doesn't love reflecting on the amazing story of Mary, a teenage girl swept up in something so unexpected, so epic? The Incarnation is just as breathtaking the thousandth time we mention it as the first—so we mention it a thousand times or more at Christmastime. To systematically point out how one prophecy after another is fulfilled in Christ is about as fun as it gets for a preacher. But what do we do with other parts of the Christmas story? For example, those odd, mind-numbing genealogies? And the story has its share of somewhat awkward characters, and in many ways, you can count Joseph among them. Well, in the sermon below, Matt Woodley covers both the genealogies and Joseph—and not necessarily in the ways you would expect.

Looking for more Advent-Christmas resources? Be sure to check out our newest batch of illustrations. Also, if you like Woodley's sermon, you'll want to read his Advent-Christmas transcript series The Promise of Better Days.


On June 5, 1978, a seven-year old boy named Martin Turgeon slipped off a wharf and fell into the Prairie River in Canada. At least a dozen adults saw him struggle for a few moments before he sank and drowned. Why didn't anyone dive in to save him? Just upstream, a plant used to dump raw sewage right into the river. The water was dirty—dangerous to your health. So, nobody jumped in to save Martin Turgeon.

It's easy at times to view God as one of the onlookers standing on the wharf of the Prairie River. We feel like God looks at us and says, "Look, I'm not diving into the mess of your life until you get out of the putrid river. I am a holy God, so you clean up your act first, and then I'll accept you and embrace you and love you." But ...

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Matt Woodley is the pastor of compassion ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.

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Sermon Outline:


In our passage we meet a God who was—and is—willing to plunge into the mess of human sin and sorrow before it's cleaned up.

I. God stands with us in our sin and shame and sorrow.

II. We are called to stand with and for others in their sin and shame and sorrow.


Christ's plunge means we have a righteousness granted to us despite the mess in our lives.