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Christmas-Twas the night before Jesus came

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"How to have a 'Mary' Christmas"
 
By Pastor Shelton Cole

Faith Baptist Church, Great Barrington, MA

Download the ASCII text version of this sermon
 

Text: Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Introduction: I know that I have just recently challenged you to change your tradition at Thanksgiving to one in which you spend some time in the house of God but I have another tradition I would like you to consider changing this morning.

We are approaching one of the most hectic times of the year. Christmas. The commercialization doesn't really bother me too much because whether they like to admit it or not, every light that is lit, every bell that rings and every ribbon that is tied onto a package reminds me and the world that Jesus was born. But I want to take you to a simpler time when the confusion and stress of Christmas was non-existent. I want you to change the type of Christmas you have. One that focuses on the important things at Christmas and one that will leave you with a sense and satisfaction that will bring joy to you and your family all year long. I want you to have, I want all of us to have a Mary Christmas. That's right, a M-A-R-Y Christmas. The Mary I am talking about is found in our text and I want to look at three ways we all can have a Mary Christmas. It is not going to be easy. Something good is seldom easy to implement especially when there is so much social inertia that is driving you in a different direction. People, family, friends and the world will all try to get you to have a "Merry" X-mas but that is not what you and I need.

Theme: You can have a 'Mary' Christmas:

I. By sitting at Jesus' feet.

Note: Mary's position in our text passage indicates two important aspects of how we should spend the Christmas season.

    A. In His Presence

Illustration: The British Weekly published this provocative letter:

Dear Sir:

It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending church quite regularly for thirty years, and I have probably heard 3,000 of them. To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon. I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitably spent on something else.

For weeks a storm of editorial responses ensued ... finally ended by this letter:

Dear Sir:

I have been married for thirty years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals -- mostly my wife's cooking. Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet ... I have the distinct impression that without them I would have starved to death long ago.

    B. Hearing His Word - In and Out of church

Illustration: There was once a girl, or as so the story goes, who though blind loved the Word of God. Despite her blindness she learned to read by touch and spent endless hours engrossed in the Bible. One day she was badly burned in her hands and when the bandages were removed, she no longer had the sensitivity of touch enough to distinguish the characters. Devastated he wept over her loss until she heard about another blind girl who did not have a Bible. On her way over to give her precious book to the girl, with a tear in her eye, she opened it one last time and with great tenderness kissed the pages that she had loved so much. To her surprise, she carefully read "The Gospel according to St. Mark".

I have found that when I read with the mind only, I get nothing compared with what I receive when I put my heart up against it. I can feel the throbbing of the heart of the infinite God. Have you learned it.? I think this is what Mary felt that day and disciples after his resurrection when they said, "... did our heart no burn within us when he spoke with us ..."

Transition: Where will you be spending your time this holiday season? At the feet of Jesus? Hearing His word preached and read?

Theme: You can have a 'Mary' Christmas:

I. By sitting at Jesus' feet.

II. By settling at Jesus' feet.

John 11:19-35 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept.

    A. How we come to Jesus - 
        compare & contrast Martha and Mary

            1. Martha was dealing with the temporal and unless I misjudge her
                response it was in doubtful, accusatory way based on the response
                of Jesus.

Note: Though the sisters of Lazarus may have had sufficient to make it on their own, often it was the support of family and friends that would sustain the household.

            2. Like many people who try to find comfort from the ache of the flesh
                in someone or somebody instead of the God of comfort, Martha
                too was seeking comfort in the temporal.

Illustration: A preacher friend of the writer told him once that he had a little grandson named Johnny, who was about four years of age. One night he was crying bitterly from toothache. All the family were sitting in the library, father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, and grown-up brothers and sisters. He went from one to the other, and reached out his little arms first for this one and then for that one, until he had made the entire round and started on the second journey. He tried his fathers shoulder, his mothers breast, his sisters loving embrace, while a strong, big brother walked him up and down, and the grandfather rocked him. But nothing would do, and nobody suited him. He in the course of ten minutes had been in the arms and sat on the lap of every one in the room, seeking rest and finding none.

You see, the laps were all right; the trouble was with the tooth of little Johnny!

People lay blame on individuals and circumstances, when the real explanation of their fault-finding and abusive speech is a morally diseased inward condition! God has a large family who are well, but He has some children who are unwell. They think others are wrong when the trouble is with their own aching tooth.

    B. What we say and how we say it - 
            compare & contrast Martha and Mary

            1. Mary came to Jesus and says the exact same thing to Jesus but this
                time a different approach is made and she falls at Jesus' feet.

            2. Hers was a recognition of the power of Jesus not only to have
                healed he brother but comfort her in her grief. We are touched here
                with the compassion of Jesus for the grief of Mary and Martha.

Transition: Where will the consolation and where can our troubles, sorrows and grief be laid at this time of the year? Some folks will spend their first Christmas without a loved one? Where will you go to find the peace of Christmas? We can settle our souls at Jesus' feet.

Theme: You can have a 'Mary' Christmas:

I. By sitting at Jesus' feet.

II. By settling at Jesus' feet.

III. By surrendering at Jesus' feet.

John 12:1-8 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Note: Spikenard was an imported fragrant liquid ointment that comes from the aromatic root and stem of the Nardostachys plant grown in the Himalayan mountains. It was imported from India in carefully sealed alabaster jars to preserve the fragrance from dissipating. Reserved for only very special guests for the wealthy, one of more modest means would save a lifetime to buy a pound of the ointment and then only use it at their burial. It could cost anywhere from one month to one year's salary. 300 pence was a years salary at that time.

Note: It is not clear if the Nard was reserved for future support or if in extreme appreciation for Jesus raising Lazarus Mary chose such an expensive and precious gift. We do know that Mary understood that Jesus was going to die for us and that she wanted to express her love for him before it was too late to do so. Mary learned two things from her experience with Jesus in the time she knew him.

    A. Time is never wasted if spent with Jesus.

    B. No gift has too great a price for God.
 

Theme: You can have a 'Mary' Christmas:

I. By sitting at Jesus' feet.

II. By settling at Jesus' feet.

III. By surrendering at Jesus' feet.

Where will you be spending your time this holiday season? At the feet of Jesus? Hearing His word preached and read?

Where will the consolation and where can our troubles, sorrows and grief be laid at this time of the year? Some folks will spend their first Christmas without a loved one? Where will you go to find the peace of Christmas? We can settle our souls at Jesus' feet.

What gift will you surrender to Jesus on His birthday? Will it be time, one of the most precious gifts we have to give? Is any gift really to large for Jesus?

Years ago a secular poem was written about the coming of Santa Claus but I want to read you a poem and carefully consider it as we look to each having Mary Christmas. It is not about the fabricated coming of a generous fat man in a red suit but the Son of God who could come back before we celebrate His birth another time.

'Twas the night before Jesus came

and all through the house

Not a creature was praying,

not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care

In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,

Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.

And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap

Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.

With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of His face made me cover my head

It was Jesus! returning just like He had said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth

I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand

Was written the name of every saved man.

He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;

When He said "It's not here" my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love

He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without a sound

While all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;

I had waited too long and this sealed my fate.

I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;

Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;

The coming of Jesus is drawing near

There's only one life and when comes the last call

We'll find that the Bible was true after all!

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