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Sermon for December 24, Christmas Eve, 1:00 p.m.

Luke 2:19 (Christmas Eve—1:00 p.m.)

“Pondering Christmas in Our Heart”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

December 24, 2014

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Our text is Luke 2:19:

“And Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”    

             What are you pondering this Christmas?  What are you pondering as you sit here in God’s house on this Christmas Eve?  What is it that you are reflecting on, thinking seriously and deeply about?  That’s what it means to ponder. 

          Luke records for us that on the first Christmas, Mary, the mother of our Lord, “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  What was Mary thinking seriously and deeply about on that first Christmas?  Well, there is the obvious.  She had just given birth and laid her firstborn Son in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.  She had just given birth to the true God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who had taken to Himself human flesh in her womb.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived in her womb.  For forty weeks He grew and developed.  And while she was far away from her Nazareth home, in Bethlehem of Judea to sign up for Caesar’s taxes, the time came for her to give birth. 

          What was Mary thinking seriously and deeply about on that first Christmas?  She pondered the words the shepherds rehearsed for her concerning the appearance of the angels and the content of the angel’s message.  Maybe the conversation went like this—

          “Um, excuse me . . . could we, um, come in?  I know this isn’t probably the best time for visitors, but, we had to come here to see this thing that happened, that the Lord told us about.” 

          Joseph ushered the shepherds in.  Lo and behold, there, lying in a manger, was a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. 

          “There He is,” one shepherd said to another.  “That is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Lord Himself!” 

          Mary asked, “How do you know this?”

          The shepherds replied, “An angel of the Lord appeared to us and the glory of the Lord was all around us.  We were terrified, but the angel told us to stop being afraid.  He told us that he had good news of a great joy that is for all people.  The angel said that in the city of David, right here in Bethlehem, a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord God, was born!  The sign we were to look for so that we know that it is true was that we would find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  And here He is!  The Messiah, the Lord!”

          Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart the fact that the baby Jesus wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger was the God-given sign of the Christ, the promised Messiah, the One whose birth signals glory in heaven and peace on earth.  She considered Him lying there, God-made-flesh and dwelling among us, the One who would save the people from their sins.  I would imagine as she thought seriously about these things, she had to simply lay them aside in her heart as beyond understanding.  She had to take these things on faith, even as she had received the message of Gabriel by faith when he revealed to Mary that she would “conceive in her womb and bear and son” and “call His name Jesus.”  No matter how deeply she thought about it, Mary had to trust God’s Word completely that Jesus is “the Son of the Most High,” “the Son of God.”  And that’s what she did.  Mary said to Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:31-32, 35, 38)

          Now her time is fulfilled.  The Son of God is born.  The One promised by God through the millennia—God Himself in the flesh come to save the world—He’s here, lying in a manger!  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

          What are you pondering this Christmas?  What are you pondering as you sit here in God’s house on this Christmas Eve?  What is it that you are reflecting on, thinking seriously and deeply about? 

          There really is a lot to choose from.  Preparations for the family gathering.  Presents and gifts!  Last minute gift purchases and gift wrapping.  Final touches on the cookies.  Sending out the last of the Christmas cards.  Getting ready to travel.  /  Family members and friends who are no longer with us because they are with the Lord.  Friends and family who will be with the Lord soon and are likely celebrating their last Christmas on this earth.  /  Your inability to have Christmas the way you used to because of physical limitations.  The family situation that results from divorce and remarriage and the establishment of a blended family.  Being single.  Being without children. 

          The things you might be pondering this Christmas range from the commercialization of a Christian festival, to the anti-Christian Christmas of the world, to the family we love, to the family we love to hate.  You might ponder what you want and what you don’t want.  What you hope goes right and what you pray doesn’t go wrong.  And it is not wrong to think about these things.  The problem comes when it’s only these things that occupy our hearts and minds this Christmas. 

          Mary treasured up all the things of the first Christmas, thinking seriously about them in her heart.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we do the same?  The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8 ESV)  By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, this is what we are enabled to do at this holy feast of the Lord’s nativity.  What could be more true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise than the incarnation and birth, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ? 

Consider what a gift Jesus is in His incarnation!  C.S. Lewis wrote, “Lying at your feet is your dog.  Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress.  Some of us love dogs very much.  If it would help all the dogs in the world to become like men, would you be willing to become a dog?  Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved, the poor substitute of looking into the beloved’s face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak?  Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father.”  Yet, He did so out of love for you.  The Son of God became flesh and blood human so that He could take your place under God’s Law and keep it for you.  The Son of God became flesh and blood human so that He could take your place under God’s wrath for your sins, so that He might suffer hell and damnation, bleed, and die in your place. 

Jesus Christ was conceived, born, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried for you!  As a wonderful article in the most recent Lutheran Witness points out, you are the reason for the Christmas Season.  You are the reason God the Son took on flesh and became man.  You are the reason He lived a perfect life.  You are the reason He suffered and died on a cross, to win your complete forgiveness.  You are the reason He rose from the dead, to give you resurrection and life in body and soul when He comes again in glory.  Ponder these things and know the grace and mercy and love of God!    

          Now, here is what I would like us to do as this message comes to an end.  I want us to take the position of Mary and to take some time of quiet meditation to ponder, to reflect on and to think deeply about these things.  You may bow your heads, close your eyes (just don’t fall asleep!), whatever works for you.  Listen to God’s Word as I read it, meditate on it during the silence, and treasure up in your hearts Jesus Christ, your Savior. 

Matthew 1:18-25: Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

 

          Silence for meditation.

 

John 1:1-14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 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.

 

Silence for meditation.

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

Silence for meditation.

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

 

Silence for meditation.


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