Theme: How to Celebrate Christmas
In these lessons on the birth of Christ we focus on its paradoxes, and how these show that Jesus’ coming is for all who will receive him.
Scripture: Luke 2
I notice something else at the end of the story. It is what I would call instructions on how to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ. First, we are told that “when they [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17). The best way to celebrate Christmas is to make this marvelous story known, which the shepherds did. They spoke to the world about what had happened. It was a lost world. It was a confused world. It did not know what the truth was or the way to find it. It was a dying world. Some would say, in spite of the great glory of the empire of Augustus, that the world was on its last legs. The shepherds had been told about Jesus, and they were anxious to have others learn about His birth and coming ministry.
Second, the passage says that “all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (v. 18). The older Authorized Version says that they “wondered” at these things. There are different kinds of wonder. There is a wonder that we call a seven-day wonder. It is here today, and everybody is talking about it. But then, suddenly, it is gone and nobody thinks about it again. The birth of Jesus was not that kind of wonder. It was a deep wonder so that those who heard about it were amazed. Christmas is wonderful. That is one reason why Christmas is so appropriately oriented to children. Children wonder at what they see. Christmas and Christ’s birth are marvelous things to them. As we get older, we cease to wonder, but we are losers for it. Let us learn to wonder again. Where we need to wonder most of all is at the gift of Jesus Christ.
The third thing we see is that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v. 19). It is possible to be amazed at something that does not have much meaningful content, but this was not the case with Mary. Mary heard these wonderful things—what the angel had told her, what the shepherds reported and, later, what the wise men said— and she took all these things and began to mull them over in her heart.
Hers is a great way to celebrate Christmas: to meditate by asking yourself what the Christmas story means, not only in history but for you personally. This involves hard work. In Mary’s case, it involved memory, because she “treasured up” all these things. That means she remembered them. She did not want to forget them. It involved her affections, because she treasured them up “in her heart.” This was not some abstract kind of experience for Mary. It was something that touched her deeply. It also involved her intellect, because she “pondered them.” That is, she tried to figure these things out.
Fourth, we read that “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (v. 20). You see, they did not only speak to men; they spoke to God too. They praised and glorified him. They said, “O God, what a great God you are to come to us in such a way! How wonderful you are for being a God like that!”
That is what we should do. If you are having trouble with these things, the place to begin is not with point number one—speaking to others—but with point two (amazement), point three (pondering), and point four (praising and glorifying God). Only after you have done that and God and His marvelous gospel have taken a proper hold upon your heart will you be able to talk to others and thus spread the good news about what God has done.
The Christmas story is a great story. It is filled with paradoxes, but the paradoxes all come down to this: God has entered human life at a low level so that nobody, no matter how low or how sinful, how high or self-righteous, need be excluded. Jesus Christ is for you, whoever you are. He is the Son of God. He is the Savior. He invites you to receive Him into your heart. Won’t you do that? This is the time. It would be a pity to go through another Christmas and not receive Him.
What four instructions for celebrating Christmas can we gain from this chapter?
Which three have to happen first?
Application: Think of someone you know who does not show evidence of salvation. Make it a point to pray for them daily, and then move from there to actually talk to them about the person and work of Christ.
For Further Study: To learn more about how we are to reflect Christ’s humility, download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “The Disposition of Christ.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)