The Gifts of Christmas Live In Us
The Gifts of Christmas Live In Us
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” 15 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.[i]
Over the past four weeks we have entered the Christmas story. We have looked for the gifts of Christmas. The first week we opened the gift of hope. Hope --- Heaven’s One Promise Emmanuel! Emmanuel means “God is with us.” God sent His angel Gabriel to announce to Zechariah that his prayers had been heard. Zechariah had hoped beyond hope for years to have a child. Gabriel comes to Zechariah and say ---“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”
God is with us!
What a Gift of Love! The second week we opened the Gift of Love and experienced the love that God has for us by becoming one of us. How much more could God do than to become one who experiences all we experience. Think of those powerful words spoken to lowly shepherds --- “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This “Good News” is that God came down to be with us and save us from our sins. Whoever you are, Jesus can deliver us, Jesus can help us, Jesus can save us.
The third week of Advent we opened to Gift of Joy. Joy, unspeakable joy! The Good News of Great Joy has come to all people. It does not matter who you are, it does not matter where you are, it does not matter whether you are rich or poor, young or old, healthy or unhealthy, educated or uneducated, or the color of your skin. The Good News is for you --- Immanuel --- God has come down to be with us. Not only has God come down to with us, God has come down to be in us. The gifts of Christmas are in us --- hope, love, joy and peace.
A group of children were once asked, "What does 'love' mean?" Here are some sample answers:
Rebekah, 8, said, "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time—even when his hands got arthritis, too. That's love." Billy, 4, said, "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth." Bobby, 7, says, "Love is what's in the room at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen." Nikka, 6, says, "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with someone you hate." Tommy, 6, says, "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Cindy, 8, says, "During my piano recital, I was on a stage, and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me, and I saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. And I wasn't scared anymore." Jessica, 8, says, "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot."[ii]
Over the past month we have been looking at the gifts of Christmas. We began with looking at our Spiritual Gifts and the gifts within us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit. These gifts of Christmas will live in us.
The closing two lines of Luke’s account are deep and profound. We hear the response from Mary. Mary treasure all these things. The Greek word for these things is “rhema.” “rhema” means “that which is spoken or said.” Mary took all the things that were spoken and said and treasured them in heart. The word “treasured” means to “preserve, protect, defend, hold closely, to keep in one’s memory and to cause oneself to become fully aware.” Mary took the words that were spoken and put them in her heart. Mary preserve these words. Mary protected these words. Mary defended these words. Mary held closely to these words. Mary kept these words in her memory.
Maybe a so what question for us tonight is what do we do with the words of “good news of great joy” spoken to us?
Mary not only treasured, protected, preserved, defended and held close these words in her memory the shepherds returned. The shepherd returned to their day job or night job as we are told --- glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. The verbs glorifying, and praising are present active verbs, which means that the action never stops. The Greek word for “glorifying” can be translated with words like; “to magnify, to extol, to displays one greatness, to honor, to praise, to be wonderful.” I love the last definition of glorifying --- to be wonderful. The shepherds were not only wonderful, they were praising God for all the things that they had see and heard. And the truth be told --- they never stopped.
A close friend of President Franklin Roosevelt once visited him at the White House. After dinner, the two men talked well into the night about affairs of state and other weighty and important matters. When their conversation had wound down, FDR suggested they step into the Rose Garden to look at the stars. It was a beautiful, clear night, and the two stood in silence, taking in the wonder of God's creation. Then Roosevelt turned to his friend and said, "All right. I think we feel small enough now to go in and go to sleep." Perhaps the vision we're not supposed to miss, at Christmastime, is not the elaborate holiday lighting displays, but God's great light show in the sky. Unlike the icicle lights that hang from the eaves of houses, and the reindeer and snowmen on the front lawns, that show doesn't glorify human achievement. Rather, a good, long look at that light show puts us in our place, making us feel "small enough to go to sleep."[iii]
I don’t think the shepherds slept much that first Christmas night. Have you ever wondered why the angels showed up that starry night to shepherds and shared with them the most significant event in history? Shepherds were unable to keep the ceremonial laws of the day; they could not observe the meticulous hand-washings and the many rules and regulations. Their flocks made many demands on them; they were simple men of the fields. Shepherds were despised by the orthodox people of their day. What a wonderful thing that the announcement of Jesus’ birth was made to simple shepherds. God didn’t send the angels to Kings or Queens, Presidents or legislatures; God brought the GOOD NEWS to common, ordinary people. People like you and me.
The shepherds understood that the news the angels brought required a response from them. As soon as the angels had sung their Glorias and returned to heaven, the shepherds decided to go find this baby. They didn’t form a committee, or a task force, or sign a bill into law, they went with haste and found the baby just like the angels had told them. And then—they went and told everyone…not just their family or friends… they told everyone about this newborn baby! The news the angels had shared with the shepherds required a response—thank God for using plain, simple, ordinary shepherds!
V The Gifts of Christmas are personal: the message isn’t just for shepherds, wise men, Zechariah and Elizabeth or Mary and Joseph of long ago, the Gifts of Christmas are for each one of us here tonight: babies and toddlers, children and teenagers, young people and old people, too! Jesus Christ is born and He will save us from our sins!
V The Gifts of Christmas brings a promise: the child in the manger isn’t just any baby. Tonight, we celebrate a birth—of Jesus Christ--the King of Kings! The promise of Christmas is this: from cradle to the cross—Jesus --- Immanuel is with us and in us!
V The Gifts of Christmas requires a response: Let us become more and more like the little children who can really define love by proclaiming what God has done for us in the birth of Jesus --- Immanuel. Let us become more like FDR and recognize how small we are and go out proclaiming the greatens of God. Let us become more like the shepherds who returned glorifying --- to honor, to extol, to be wonderful by praising the Good News of Great Joy we have received. God is with us! God lives in Us and so do the gifts of Christmas
Tonight, you’ve heard Good News of Great Joy! What is our response? Will we run with haste to tell everyone the Good News?
Reflections on the Christ Child
More than any other night of the year, the name of Jesus is on our lips. For a few precious moments our heavenly desires come together and we become a chorus. A mixed chorus of business people, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, homemakers, retired and school bound people who are banking that Bethlehem’s mystery is a reality. “Come and Behold Him” we sing, stirring even the sleepiest shepherds and bringing them to the Christ Child.
For a few precious hours --- Christ is beheld --- Christ, our Savior, Messiah and Lord. The common is made Holy. A loaf of bread becomes the bread of life; a cup of water becomes living water; a star in the night becomes the guiding light; a baby born in a stable becomes our firm foundation. Tonight the common is made holy.
What if you could give a Christmas gift to the Christ Child? Would you say that you do not have anything worthy of a King? But, you have one thing that He would long to have and all of heaven would erupt in songs of praise when this gift is given. Do you know what it is? It is your heart! Christ longs to warm your heart and life.
It is not enough to peek in the manger and say, “Oh, how nice. What a lovely scene. It gives me such good feelings.” The truth is, even if Christ were born in Bethlehem a thousand times but not within you, you would be eternally lost. The Christ who was born into the world must be born in your heart. Religious sentiment, even at Christmastime, without the living Christ is a yellow brick road to darkness.
Can we bow our heads in prayer?
Dear Gracious God: We thank you for the gift of Emmanuel this Christmas. We thank you because Emmanuel is practical, personal and forever with us. We thank you and ask that you will help us to continually respond to Emmanuel --- God with us!
In this season of heartaches, hurts and harm, warm our hearts with your heavenly joy.
In this season of insecurity, warm our hearts with your peace.
In this season of war, warm our hearts with your hope.
In the ugliness of hatred, warm our heart with your love.
Bless our homes, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our workplaces.
Bless our schools, our city, our state and our nation.
May the whole world come to know the saving grace of the Christ Child.
Help us to unwrap Your Christmas gift anew each day.
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
December 24, 2017 --- Christmas Eve
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[ii] "The Greatest of These," PreachingToday.com