Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

A Christmas Message from Luke Chapters 1-2

It was the night of the children’s Christmas play and little Johnny was upset because he didn’t get the part of Joseph. He was assigned the part of the inn keeper.

Because he was still bitter, when Joseph and Mary arrived at the inn to ask if there was room, little Johnny threw the play by saying, “Sure, come on in!”

Joseph was at first taken aback, but with quick wit, stepped in, looked around and said, “This place is a dump. I’d rather stay in the barn.”

Ah Christmas is upon us once again! Canned music throughout downtown. Sales! Sales! Sales! Baking cookies. Buying the RIGHT presents for everyone, even if you know they are simply EXPECTING a present and don’t really care what they get. There is ALMOST something tugging in the heart that wishes it were all over. Until…

Until you read “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). There is a poignant scene in “The Chosen Christmas” which aired last week. Mary and Joseph have traveled all the way to Bethlehem. No room at the inn, of course. They head to the stable. Joseph shovels aside the manure while Mary prepares a nice bed in the feed troth for the coming newborn. And then? They rehearse. Rehearse what? They rehearse all the words that the Lord told each of them through His angel. They want to be sure they are obedient to His Word.

So what things do you think Mary pondered in HER heart? What would YOU have pondered if an angel of the LORD came to you with “out of your comfort zone” news? Let’s check it out!

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28) were the first words of interruption to Mary’s world. Interruptions! You gotta love them! A phone call – which isn’t so bad anymore now that you know the from WHOM a call is coming before you answer it. A doctor’s call saying “you need to get to my office as soon as possible.” The passing of a loved one or friend. Just last weekend my father-in-law called early Saturday morning to let us know that his 85 year old roommate in the nursing home had died in his sleep during the night.

The interruption – on Whom was Mary’s heart FIXED?

Interruptions! Mary and Joseph would both have their interruptions in those early days of what would be her pregnancy with Jesus. And what was her response to the news that she was to give birth to the Messiah? Let’s read it together: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). This is not a question of unbelief! This is a word of humility, a word of her integrity. The angel would say to her, “that Holy One Who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” And Mary’s response? “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let is be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). And then in what has become known as “Mary’s Magnifcat” she declares her faith in her unborn Savior: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47).

Her heart’s faith and trust was fixed upon her Savior – her Son!

We now enter familiar Christmas territory: “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” (Luke 2:9). Remember verse 19? “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The Message translates it this way: “Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.” What was the object of her pondering, her reviewing over and over and over? Remember Luke 2:10? “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for BEHOLD I bring you good tidings of great joy which will bee to ALL people.’” All people! No divisions of races? No divisions of religions?

This reminds me of the lady who walked up to the counter at the post office and asked for Christmas stamps. The clerk said, “What denominations?” She said, “Has it come to that? Oh all right! 40 Baptists and 10 Catholics!”.

The glorying – on Whom was Mary’s heart PONDERING?

Read on! “Christ the Lord!” (v. 11) – her focus would be on her SON and HIS Lordship!

“Swaddling cloths” (v. 12) – wrapped, God becoming the Man/servant, wrapped in cloths which were normally used for the first born lamb which was to be sacrificed at the temple!

“Has come to pass” (v. 15) – just how MANY prophecies and promises were fulfilled at the birth of her Son?

“This child” (v. 17) – the center of the story is…JESUS!

Mary’s pondering was her glorying in her own Son!

On whom is YOUR heart pondering? Remember the Message: “holding them dear, deep within herself.” Do you know WHY your heart should be pondering on the Lord Jesus? Because without Him your heart is empty and pondering the need rather than the solution – Jesus!

Then there is the marveling – on Whom was Mary’s heart LISTENING?

In the midst of Mary’s pondering came an interesting gentleman named Simeon (Luke 2:25ff), a most obscure figure during the days of the birth of Christ. At the temple, at the baby’s “dedication service” (with its Scripturally ordained sacrifices), out of the blue comes a man named Simeon, who the Word says is “a devout man, waiting for the Consolation of Israel”. And importantly, the Word adds, “and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Luke 2:25). Under the authority of the Holy Spirit, Simeon picks up the Baby, blesses God, and then gives some amazing insights into the nature and character of Mary’s newborn Son:

* He is the Messiah! (Luke 2:26, “the Christ” = “the Anointed One, Messiah”)

* He is “your Salvation” (Luke 2:30)

* He is “for all peoples” (Luke 2:31-32)

In his prayer, Simeon says that at last he can go to his death in peace, “according to Your Word.” This is KEY! How was he to learn more about this Baby before him? By reading the Word of God! How was Mary to learn more about her Baby before her? By reading the Word of God! Ahem. Ahem. How are we to learn more about this Baby before us? By reading the Word of God! LISTEN to the Word!

Finally there is the purposing – on Whom was Mary’s heart PURPOSED?

Dr. Luke’s classic passage of Luke 1-2 mentions one more incident in the life of the “Child” Jesus. When He was 12 years old, He got “lost” among the teachers of the temple, teaching and questioning with an other-worldly authority which would be a major part of His future earthly ministry. Upon finding Him in the temple after His 3 day disappearance, Mary asked Him, “Son, why have You done this to us?”. To that our Savior replied with His youthful eternal insight, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:48-49).

They all went home, and from then on the Lord Jesus was subject to His earthly parents. But Mary knew, she KNEW, that it would not be long before her Messiah would show Himself to His people and to the world. What did she do? She “kept all these things in her heart.” (v. 51). Her heart was purposed, fixed, on her Son’s obedience to them and to His servanthood. This is an huge reminder that even though 12 years had passed since His birth, God’s purposes had not.

We may at times think that God is slow – but the Bible says He is longsuffering! His purposes will come to pass in His time!

So let’s each ask ourselves:

* Are the interruptions in your life meaningless, or do they point to Jesus?

* Is the object of your life meaningless, or is it Jesus?

* Is your heart listening to that which leaves you empty, or are you listening to God’s Word which tells of Jesus?

* Have you lost heart that God cares, or are you focused on God’s purposes always being fulfilled, even in your life?

The doctor was trying to calm his nervous young patient. “And I see the wind in your ears, the storm in your throat, and Barney in your heart.”

“Oh NO, Doc. Barney is on my underwear – JESUS is in my heart!”

This Christmas, is Jesus in YOUR heart?