The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Day 2005
I. Introduction –
A blessed Christmas day to you. As we celebrate the second highest holiday of the Christian calendar, I pray that your day, that this season, is filled with all the joy, and love, and happiness, and warmth and hope and peace… well, maybe that’s not so realistic.
For many people, and perhaps for you too, by this time we are “Christmas’ed out”. Like a vacation that looks great in the brochure, but once you get there you can’t wait to come home. For many of us this time of year, the stress, the hassle, the shopping, cooking, hurrying, the visiting, and all the other stuff we HAVE to do… might not seem worth it. For most, there’s at least a part of us that is glad Christmas is here, so we can get on with other things.
II. Bah Humbug
Perhaps Mary and Joseph had the first case of “Bah Humbug” Christmas stress. You can imagine the difficulty of the journey – and Mary “great with child”. Some very pregnant women have difficulty even walking, much less traveling over 70 miles of rocky countryside and dusty roads.We can imagine what the people were saying about her and her mysterious pregnancy. Under such a cloud of suspicion, maybe she was more than happy to “get away” for a while.
Perhaps Joseph felt the burden that rested on his shoulders, and wasn’t in the “Christmas spirit”, knowing that he would have to care for a child – and not on his time-table. What an inconvenient time for this census, too, by the way!
Perhaps you too have a little “bath humbug” going on. We build Christmas up to be such a spectacular event, it’s easy to get disappointed, to become jaded. Whatever your struggles with life this Christmas, you will not find ultimate answers in the wrapping paper and the lights, the egg nog and the figgy pudding. Visiting with family is nice, seeing the wonderment of a child brings some warm fuzzies. But there is only one true answer to the bah-humbug. There is only one who can keep us from being “Christmas’ed out”. He is the Christ the Lord.
III. Mary’s Treasures
It’s often noticed how scripture doesn’t often tell you what someone was feeling. It doesn’t usually tell you what someone thinks. But here we have a little bit of a window into Mary’s heart and mind. “She treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart”. Even this doesn’t tell us that Mary was full of pleasant emotions, or sappy sentimentalism. But it does tell us that her heart and mind – presumably for decades – dwelled on the treasures of this Christmas story.
We have a children’s book about a family of bears who go on a vacation. It’s supposed to be this wonderful getaway at a cabin in the woods. It turns out they encounter a skunk, the cabin is dirty, the food is bad, and it rains the whole time. But all the while they take pictures. And at the end of the book, it tell s how they take out the pictures every so often and enjoy their memories of “worst vacation they ever had”.
The treasures of the Christmas story are much like that. The stress of an unusual pregnancy. A long, tough journey. A no vacancy sign at the inn. A humble crib – a feeding trough. Strangers - smelly shepherds barging in to see the baby. In many ways, it couldn’t have been a worse vacation. And yet for Mary, and for us, these are treasures to ponder.
And the greatest treasure of them all, of course, is the child himself. He who makes everything else matter so little. He turns the bad into good. He brings light to darkness, life to death, and God’s favor to sinners. He, the very Son of God, stooped down to take on human flesh, to live, to die, to rise, and to save. Mary treasured this greatest treasure. So do we.
She would “ponder all these things” as Jesus carried out his work for our salvation. As the baby Jesus was blessed by Simeon at the temple. As the boy Jesus stayed behind in the temple. As the man Jesus changed water into wine. As he preached and taught, cast out demons, healed the sick, commanded nature, and raised the dead to life.
And Mary would ponder the treasures also at the foot of a Roman cross, as her Son – once a precious baby – would now suffer the wrath of God for the sins of the world. Then Mary saw the true measure of the treasure she and all the world received on that “silent night” years ago. A God who takes flesh to die for his people.
When all the so-called treasures that obscure the true treasure are stripped away, and we are left with a manger that leads only to the cross, then we, like Mary, can ponder in our hearts the true treasure that is Christ. And Christmas becomes, once again, about Christ. And how can we “bah humbug” such a treasure?
IV. Glorifying God
There were at least some who were not “Christmas’ed out” on that first Christmas. Take the angels. They appeared in multitude to sing a song the shepherds would hear, but a song that was directed to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on Earth.” We sing that song to this day in the church.
And the shepherds, they saw the Treasure, and spend little time pondering, but like the angels, went to tell! They too “glorified God”. Not telling so much about the angels, but “everything they had been told concerning this child”. Singing and telling, glorifying God, both angels and shepherds treasured this Babe of Bethlehem.
For them, it wasn’t about being “Christmas’ed out”, but getting the message of Christmas out! That this day, a Savior has been born, that he is Christ the Lord. He brings God’s peace and favor to Earth. The shepherds, especially, took a fresh look in the manger. “Let’s go and see” they said. And so have we, come this day, in a sense, to Bethlehem. To see this thing that has happened, this thing we call Christmas. For the shepherds, there was no rampant commercialism or competing cultural custom to obscure the view of the Treasure. They saw him clearly – the long awaited savior - and they glorified God. Let it be so for us as well. As we hear the Savior’s words, we ponder the Treasure. As we receive his Body and Blood, he brings peace on Earth – heavenly peace – to each forgiven sinner.
Whether you are “Christmas’ed out”, and feeling a little “scroogey”, or whether this truly is your favorite day of the year, and even if it’s a little bit of both – join the shepherds, and Mary, and the angels – in the pondering and the singing and the glorifying – and take a look at the Treasure in the manger, who is Christ the Lord - and have a blessed Christmas. Amen.
Perhaps by now, you are “Christmas’ed out”. But take a fresh look in the manger, and see what a Treasure is the babe of Bethlehem. Glory to God in the highest!