Luke 2:1-20 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.
Matthew 2:9-12 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart?” What would Mary have pondered in her heart that first Christmas? What would she have been thinking about? What kinds of things occupy your mind at Christmastime? Are you busy making a list of people to send Christmas cards to? Are you worried about finding just the right present for that special someone? Are you consumed by financial pressure and worried you won’t have the means to make Christmas what your kids are hoping it will be? Are you nervous about making the big family meal for the in-laws or having people stay in your home? Are you concerned everyone won’t get along? Are you afraid there won’t be time to get everything done that you think you need to? Are you thinking about the Christmas musical services we are having here at church? Are you thinking about all the baking you hope to do? Are visions of “sugar plums” dancing in your head?
What Mary would have pondered would have likely included an element of CONFIRMATION.
As Mary listened to the excited shepherds’ story, she would have heard about how heaven had invaded earth. It wasn’t just about the coming of a baby, but the coming of the Kingdom of God. She would have heard how angels confirmed what she had been told previously. Jesus, the Savior, was born. For Mary had been visited by an angel in Luke 1 where we read: 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
I can just see Mary breathe a sigh of relief and maybe even laugh a little. I don’t believe she ever really doubted the first angel’s message because in Luke 1:45 her cousin, Elizabeth said about Mary that she was blessed because she believed the angel’s message. If Mary had anything it was faith in the plan of God. Yet I am sure that although she believed she was to be the mother of the Messiah it was nice to be reassured and have the angel’s message reaffirmed to people beyond and Joseph and herself.
I don’t know if you’ve ever received a word from God and knew it was from Him, and you knew if you were you to tell anyone they would think it was crazy or that you were crazy for believing it was a heavenly message. It’s nice to have God say the same thing to someone else. I love it when God’s Word is confirmed to me through other people. It adds strength to my faith.
We also can receive confirmation about the Christmas story for ourselves this morning. Let the Holy Spirit and God’s Word confirm it is real! It did happen, and it all happened just as God had said it would. The virgin, the swaddling clothes, the star in the east, the whole ball of wax had been prophesied hundreds of years before, had been given personally to Mary and was now beginning to be revealed to the world beginning with a ragtag band of shepherds. There were well over 300 Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah’s birth which Jesus fulfilled. These weren’t written after the fact, but hundreds of years before Jesus was born. They were documented, well-known prophecies prior to Christ’s coming.
Friends, Christmas is not a sentimental figment of someone’s imagination. It’s not a social invention so that we’d get a vacation or family time or find a way to give each other presents. It DID happen. The Messiah was born. Heaven came earth. There were multiple witnesses. Where and how Jesus would be born, what His name would be, the Tribe He would descend from—it was all foretold and written down. The whole angelic announcement and star in the East that settled over Bethlehem, the willingness of the shepherds to walk off their jobs and leave their sheep and make the journey, the willingness of the Magi to risk being killed by Herod for not reporting back to him what he wanted to know—-it’s all too much to overlook. Be confirmed in your heart this Christmas, Jesus, the Messiah has come into the world.
Mary would also have pondered great celebration!
The birth of a baby is an amazing event. There is huge excitement and great joy. Inexpressible joy exudes from parents in those opening moments of a baby’s life. I love to be part of the arrival of a new baby when the grandparents and other family members are oohing and ahhing over the birth of a new family member. The celebration is contagious.
Mary would have been overjoyed to hear that not only earth but heaven also was rejoicing with her and Joseph. Luke 2:13 and 14 say, “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.” To hear the applause of heaven, to know you are part of the miracle of God, the plan of God, is cause for great celebration! I want to believe the celebration displayed in the heavens was in part for Mary because of her willingness to embrace God’s plan for her life. She wasn’t likely over 16. She willingly put herself in a position of scorn and rejection being pregnant and unmarried, yet she did it with faith. She did it with passion. She did it with a spirit of rejoicing. She was completely willing to be God’s servant. I think heaven was clapping a little for her! I have to believe the applause was in part for Joseph who willingly took in a son that wasn’t his own despite the rumors and the stigma that would have swirled around him and Mary at least until Jesus’s first party trick of turning the water to wine. J Yes, I think heaven gave Joseph a round of applause too.
I have to believe heaven’s celebration was in part for all of us because heaven was so thrilled to announce the good news that was for you and me. Salvation was born in a manger! To be able to break the story that there was peace for the taking and the favor of God for the experiencing meant that participating in the miracle of God wasn’t just for Mary and Joseph but for all of us. Each one of us can know God’s favor. Each one of us can walk with God. Each one of us can absolutely have the Messiah be born in us! It doesn’t get any better than that! Do you have the Hope of heaven in your heart? Is your life characterized by the joy and peace the angels announced? Is Jesus your Messiah?
I can just picture the shepherds talking a mile a minute and speaking over top one another in an effort to convey what they had just experienced. This celebration is so amazing that it is ongoing, daily and continual in the life of a believer. Christmas is every day! Joy and peace are every day! Mary couldn’t stop thinking about it all. She had to dwell on it, ponder it, and mull over the incredible nature of it all. We aren’t to stop thinking about it either. Christmas should be an intense time of focusing on the joy of Christmas! How Mary would have reflected on and pondered on how much excitement and joy there was over her baby’s birth!
I believe Mary would have pondered the Magi’s announcement about how they stopped at Herod’s palace for directions. She would have thought it quite strange that Herod expressed an interest in worshiping the new baby King. Herod didn’t have the best of reputations. He wasn’t known for worshiping anyone but himself. Herod didn’t have a reputation for having the best intentions. What did Herod have in mind? Why did he want to find the baby? She knew the reason couldn’t be good.
The idea that someone was out to kill your child from His birth had to be frightening. The notion of always having to live life on the run would have likely crossed her mind. After all, they were told by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt for Baby Jesus’s safety. To think that not only would there be celebration around your son’s birth but lifelong drama would have had Mary stirred up as she thought about His future and her future.
Reality was seen from the “get go” with Jesus’ birth. Not everyone would welcome Him. Not everyone would receive Him. Some would not only be indifferent to Him. Some would hate Him. Some would seek to harm Him. I think Mary was probably pretty serious in some of her contemplation. While following Jesus is a life of great celebration it is also costly, risky, and dangerous to be His disciple when you take into consideration that others will be out to get you because you are close to Him. It was going to be a great sacrifice to be the mother of the Son of God.
As Mary pondered “all these things” I wonder if she was counting the cost of this now life-long relationship with Jesus. I mean, “Once a mother, always a mother.” Many people are counting costs at Christmas time. Looking for deals online, trying to maximize coupons, being willing to get up at 4:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, forgoing sleep and taking your life into your hands in the crowded malls, you put up with a lot in order to get that special gift. Many will sacrifice integrity and even personal safety as they rip that last special I-pod out of the hands of another shopper, knocking over aisle displays in the process as they run to the register to try to escape with their purchase. Many think the sacrifices and ridiculous behavior is “worth it” if we wind up with the material purchase and save a few bucks in the end. Many parents will do without something in order for their children to possess what their heart desires. Parents think their sacrifice is “worth it” in order to see the smile on their children’s faces.
Let me challenge you to ponder what may have crossed Mary’s mind . . . the cost of truly following Jesus. In the end, would Mary say it was “worth it?” In Luke 14, Jesus warned the crowds that were following Him about being close to Him. Identifying as a follower of Jesus, living as He did, and following in His footsteps all came at a great price. He urged that they should count the cost to see if they really wanted to be His disciple. Following Jesus doesn’t mean becoming a Christian tag along or a church attender. It’s far more than that. In Luke 14 Jesus paints the picture that He is to be first in our lives above our possessions, above our plans, and above all the people in our lives and if we aren’t willing to forsake all three if asked to do so, then we cannot truly be His disciples.
Was Mary up to the task? Could she put her full trust in God to lead her as she nurtured the One who would become her Savior? Could she follow Him all the way to the foot of the cross, getting as physically close to it as she could without actually getting on it herself, without turning away from the bloodied and disfigured Jesus when He needed her most? Could she continue to associate with Him when that meant possibly being imprisoned or killed herself? When Mary was heartbroken beyond belief and couldn’t believe what she was seeing as her Son was tortured, could she still follow Him?
Perhaps as Mary pondered everything she saw and heard she vowed her faithfulness to do whatever it took in order for God’s plans to succeed. Will you openly associate with Jesus during this Christmas? Seems everybody else that isn’t a Christian is open about what they stand for! Will you be voluntarily known as “one of His?” Will you continue to say, “Merry Christmas?” and forgo the politically correct, “Happy Holidays?” Will you invite people to church? Will you share your faith? Will you be unashamed to worship the Christ-child?
Perhaps Mary pondered the wise men’s visit. Maybe she marveled that kings so readily would bow before this Infant. Before Jesus did anything spectacular, before He could even speak to them or assist them or teach them, they recognized His splendor. The signs in the heavens, the star that led them on their journey to find Him, it was so spectacular they didn’t need any other proof that they were kneeling before Deity. So many people need proof . . . proof on their terms and yet these men recognized the Messiah because they had traveled as God had led them. When you follow God’s lead, you will always arrive at the manger and bow. You will never question the empty tomb. You will take God as His Word. You will expect the return of Christ when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Before the wise men could receive anything from Jesus, they gave Him very special gifts. There was the gift of gold which was reserved for royalty. Before they even met Him face to face, the wise men told King Herod they were searching for the One who had been born King of the Jews. How did they know He was the King of Kings? They said they had seen “His Star” that they had seen a Star that was placed in the heavens just specifically in honor of the King of King’s birth.
Gold given to the infant King was a symbol of His royalty. Mary hadn’t forgotten what the angel had said in Luke 1:32-33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Another confirmation of her son’s destiny unfolded as she watched the first king kneel to present his gift of gold. This consecrated worshiper worshipped Jesus as King.
The second gift, frankincense was very rare and costly. Using frankincense was part of Israelite worship as it was incense that was always burning on the Altar of Incense, the altar the Jews prayer before. When burned, frankincense gives off a sweet smelling smoke which represented the prayers of the Israelite people rising to God. The only time Jews used frankincense was in this worship practice of prayer. It was reserved strictly for the worship of God. When that second king knelt and presented his frankincense, Mary may have remembered the prophecies about the coming Messiah. She could have recalled that His name would be Immanuel which means “God with us.” Another confirmation. . . this time of her son’s identity, when he was presented with the gift used to worship God alone. This consecrated worshiper worshipped Jesus as God.
The third gift, myrrh had multiple uses. The most common use for myrrh was for burial. It was put on the cloths that would be wrapped around a body before burial. The perfumed smell would help cover the smell of decay. Not another confirmation, but perhaps a revelation for Mary. Her Son would save the world by dying for it. This consecrated worship worshipped Jesus as Redeemer.
What we give in consecration and worship to Jesus speaks of what we believe to be true about Him. Does your worship reflect you believe Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Does it reflect that you believe He is God and is the only way to God? Does your singing and your praying and your praising of Him represent that you have received Him as the Redeemer of your life? The wise men gave the best of gifts to the infant King in worship. What will you give Him? I have a pastor friend that is challenging his congregation to give the amount of money that represents the most expensive gift they are getting for someone they love. If they are spending $100.00 on someone, they are being challenged to give that same amount over and above their tithe to Jesus. The same challenge is issued to those spending significantly more.
But you and I know it’s not about money and never has been, but it is about our willingness to bow, our willingness to honor, our willingness to acknowledge Jesus as the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Redeemer of all. Does your worship represent who you believe Jesus is?
I can’t say for sure what Mary was pondering, but I know she was focused on the things of God, for she had made her mind up to cooperate with the plan of God. She was devoted as the Lord’s Servant. She willingly received God’s Word through the angel. She didn’t understand it all in an instant. She couldn’t have. She didn’t comprehend what would be required in order to mother the Messiah. She couldn’t foresee how difficult it would be to watch her Beloved Son go through the intense persecution and torture and crucifixion in that moment, but as Mary took it all in, she took it to heart.
It’s easy to be distracted by deadlines, practices, obligations, parties, preparation, and financial pressures, but I want to challenge you this morning to keep your head in the Christmas Season. Stay mentally engaged about what it means that Christ was born. Let God confirm His Word in you anew. Celebrate the season to the fullest in honor of the Christ-child. Count the cost of identifying with the Christ-child turned crucified and live out your faith on purpose as you move through the season, and give of your best in consecration and worship. Commit to pondering Christ and elevating Him above all things in your thoughts this Christmas.