Pondering Christmas

Christmas Day
December 25, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Pondering Christmas

Luke 2:15–20 (NIV84)
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I have had the privilege to teach one of our 7th grade members Martin Luther’s Small Catechism in a one on one style class this fall. One of the most common responses I hear from her is “wow”. We talk about the Trinity, that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet is one God. Wow! We see how God created the world. Wow! We look at how God has saved us and all people from sin by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Wow! Jesus is true God and true Man in one person. Wow! Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and God is his Father. Wow!

I say that this class has been a privilege for me because I get to be there as the Lord reveals to her the wonders of who he is and what he has done. Sometimes we let the familiarity of what God has done for us dampen our joy. We know that Jesus, the Son of God, was born for us at Christmas. We know he is our Savior. Sometimes the “wow” just isn’t there. It is good to be around someone who gets it. On this Christmas day we say “wow!” to all that God has done for us in Jesus. Mary got it and so did the shepherds. May we ponder Christmas like them.

Like the Shepherds

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Angels are God’s messengers and what a message an angel brought to the shepherds this night! The angel told them that the Christ was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds knew this was not just the message of an angel but that the Lord had told them this good news. The shepherds pondered the message by talking among themselves. “Let’s go to Bethlehem!” Then they went.

They did not go to Bethlehem to see if it was true. They went to see that which was true - their Savior, lying in the manger. Those shepherds had an important responsibility. They were to watch the sheep at night. They were to protect the sheep from predators, thieves and keep the sheep for wandering away and getting lost. Can you imagine the shepherds responding to the good news that Christ is born by saying, “We’ll go tomorrow after our shift is over in the fields. First, we have to go home, get something to eat, shower, take a nap and then if we have time, we will go to see the Christ who will take away the sin of the world.”

Of course the shepherds did not say that. They hurried off to see the baby Jesus. If we were in the fields that night, would we have run to the manger to see Mary and Joseph and Jesus? I think so. Angels delivered God’s message. Who wouldn’t go? But now that we hear this good news year after year, are we as eager to hear it again? Do we sometimes pass by opportunities to ponder the message of God in the Bible because we have sheep to watch, money to make, entertainment to enjoy, or any number of other things that keep us busy? Do we look for other things to make us say, “wow!” because the word of God just doesn’t do it anymore?

May the good news of Christmas reawaken the inner shepherd in us and make us run to God’s message. Jesus was born for people who have set him aside, turned away from him and ignored him. He was born for sinners like us and lived for sinners and died for sinners to bring us to God. He wanted us even when we did not want him. He still has things to say to us. Run to the Bible this year and marvel at who your Savior is, what he has done and what he says to you.

The shepherds could not contain their joy after seeing Jesus. Everything they heard from the angels was true. Everything the Scriptures said about the Christ would soon be fulfilled. God has sent the offspring of a woman to crush Satan’s head. The virgin gave birth to a son who is Emmanuel, God with us. The Prince of Peace has arrived to forgive sin and give us peace with God. The Righteous Branch from Jesse’s line has come to rule in justice and righteousness forever. Think of all the shepherds could ponder in the Old Testament that was now being fulfilled. It is no wonder that...

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Ponder the Scriptures like a shepherd. Share the good news of Christ’s birth like the shepherds too.

Like Mary

Mary’s reaction to Jesus’ birth and the shepherd’s visit was a quiet one.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The last nine months had been quite exciting for Mary. The angel Gabriel visits her with an amazing announcement. Though she does not say, “wow” she could have. She is going to have a son without a human father. Her Son is the Son of God. He is the Savior promised to Adam and Eve thousands of years before. That is a lot for a young women to marvel at and she has the continual reminder that this is going to happen because she is pregnant and carried God’s Son in her body. I can’t speak from experience, but I’m guessing that it is hard for a woman to forget that she is pregnant.

But there may have been other times during the nine months that Mary would want to forget. Mary has to take a journey when she is near her due date to obey the demands of the Roman Empire. Bethlehem is so full of pilgrims for the census that Joseph and Mary have to stay in less than ideal conditions, where the animals stay. It could have been a stable, a cave or part of a home designed to bring in the animals for the night. This is no pleasure trip. It is a forced vacation in a no star hotel (though the best star appears over it) during the worse time to travel for a pregnant woman.

And Mary treasured up all these things. Everything that God was doing to bring about the birth of her Savior, Mary treasured. She guarded these things in her heart so that they could never be taken from her.

A Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus entitled “Savior of the World” recently sold for a little over $450 million. The museum that will display this precious work will be sure to guard it from thieves. How much more precious is the real Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary! This real Jesus was born for you, lived and died for you, rose for you. This real Jesus is yours by faith. Treasure him. Guard your heart from anything that seeks to take the place of Christ. Soon people will put away the Christmas decorations and store them safely away in the attic or garage or basement. Don’t put Jesus away after Christmas. Keep him in the center of your life every day. He is your most treasured possession and you are his treasured possessions too.

Mary had a constant reminder of the “wow” of Christmas. She could ponder the miracle of her Son being God and Man all the time. God’s Son slept through the night. Wow! The Savior of the world took his first steps. One day he will walk on water. Wow! Jesus said his first word. There would be many powerful words to follow. Wow! The Son of God began to read. One day he will teach the teachers in the temple courts. Wow! Mary pondered and watched and marveled as Jesus turned water into wine, confronted the religious leaders, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the third day. Wow!

Mary, the shepherds and my friend in catechism class all say “wow” to what the Lord has done at Christmas. So do we as we continue to ponder Christmas all year.



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