Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sermon for 24 December 2012, The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Luke 2:19 et al
Treasure to Ponder
The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve, 24 December 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the name of Jesus. Amen.
We are distracted this Christmas. It could be said that people are always distracted at Christmas about their own business, but this year, events in Connecticut weigh heavily on our hearts and minds whether we’ll admit it or not.
Tonight, Luke 2:19 is a verse that resonates with parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and others with love and care for children: But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
So, what was Mary pondering?
Most recently, shepherds showed up at their makeshift nursery in a cave used as a stable because there no room in the main hotel. The shepherds told Mary and Joseph what the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:9-12). This is what Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart.
All that the shepherds shared fit with what the angel Gabriel told Mary herself: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God…” This is Mary’s treasure to ponder.
Mary also pondered what an angel told Joseph: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Mary confesses that she was in need of a Savior. She has been told that her own Son is that Savior. How would the Lord’s salvation be accomplished? Everyone knew that there was no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.
This is what Mary was pondering that first Christmas. She knows how we feel.
Did Mary know everything that her Son would have to suffer through? Probably not. Yet, she was told more / a mere forty days later: Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all people,  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
This Simeon, this prophet of peace, had another word of the Lord for Mary and Joseph about Jesus: And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:25-35).
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Yet, how do you treasure up such difficult things? A mere forty days after she gave birth to Jesus Simeon prophesied that a sword would one day pierce through Mary’s own soul.
Skip ahead a little more. Jesus may be as old as two. Wise men come to Jerusalem and they ask King Herod for permission to see the one born to be King of the Jews. They were seeking Jesus. King Herod felt threatened.
The prophet Micah wrote about Bethlehem, and so we sing our hymns of joy because of He who was born in that little town. Micah also prophesies of Bethlehem Ephrathah, because of the horrors of what would happen “in Bethlehem and in all that region” when King Herod tried to kill the King of Kings.
Matthew tells the tragic history: Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Rachel, wife of Jacob, also known as Israel, weeps for her children. Scripture tells us she is buried not far from Bethlehem. She reminds us all how much we need the peace of God. As matriarch of Israel, she weeps with a nation in mourning. At the very least, we have someone who knows how we feel this Christmas.
Mary did not know such events would follow the birth of her firstborn Son. Who could treasure such difficult things? Even we would rather not ponder them.
Jesus’ Father knew what was in store for His Son.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:16-19).
How different are we as human beings. When we know we have a difficult day ahead, we only reluctantly get out of bed. On the night in which He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). This is why Jesus teaches His Christians to pray, “Thy will be done…” and not “my will be done.”
Jesus knew the difficult task before Him and went through it anyway. This is a message to treasure, good news to ponder in your hearts and minds. Jesus’ innocent suffering and death and Resurrection means that He fulfills His Name, for He saves His people from their sins.
The birth of the Savior of our fallen race took place in royal David’s city, the little town of Bethlehem on a silent night. Angels from on high told of the Father’s love begotten, a new rose blooming from the line of Jesse, the Christ child laid in a manger by His mother, Mary. Therefore, come, all ye faithful, sing this Christmas night and every day henceforth of a beauteous heavenly light, Jesus, that breaks forth into our darkened world.
Ours is a message to treasure and celebrate, good news of salvation to ponder in your hearts and minds, reconciliation to share. Jesus knew the difficult task before Him and went through it anyway. For you. And that is the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is our Treasure to Ponder. Amen.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.