Merry & Bright
A Christmas Sermon Series
“Responding to God’s Favor Upon Your Life”
Our story today picks up right after the angels leave the shepherds standing in the pasture. Before they were going about watching over their flocks by night, then the message from and angel, then the appearing of the heavenly host, and a worship service right there in the night sky. Then as soon as they had appeared, they are gone.
Now What? (vv. 15-20)
15When 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.” 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Go and See (v. 15b-16)
Many times, we try to define faith and we make too complicated. Faith is simply taking God at His Word. The shepherds had just been given a message – There is a Savior, you can meet Him, Here’s how you will recognize Him. The step of faith for the shepherds was to go to Bethlehem. “16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger”
The step of faith that God requires us to take is not to run to a nearby barn, but Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God offers us forgiveness and salvation as a gift – the step we take is to receive or reject this good news as a gift. (Christmas gift around the tree)
Is it good enough to hear about Jesus. Even if Jesus was born a mile away, they would have been just as lost as if he had been born on the other side of the planet. The shepherds could have gone and found Jesus, and said, “oh how nice, what a cute baby. This gives me such warm feelings.” “The Christ who was born into the world, must also be born into your heart.” The shepherds rejoiced when they were told that a savior had been born!
Going and then Telling (v. 17-18)
There was something within this group of shepherds that told them that they simply could not go back to the pasture to watch the sheep. They knew they had to tell others the good news. The town was amazed – but what the Bible doesn’t say is how the town responded. Did they go and see the Christ child?
We are even commanded to go and tell what we have experienced with Christ, as Jesus was ascending into heaven he gave the command, Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
But humans rarely follow Jesus’ commands because we are told to – we usually follow because we genuinely desire for others to know Jesus, as we know Jesus. I have heard salvation described as, “one beggar telling the other beggar where the bread is.” It’s when we forget how Christ has changed our lives, that we quit, unlike the shepherds, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,” They knew it was not right for them to keep such a wonder and treasure to themselves. They knew how they felt when they found Jesus and wanted others to feel that way as well.
II Kings 7:8-9 tells the story of God’s people being surrounded by an army, locked up in a city and all the people are starving. Two beggars say, we are going to die, why not try to sneak over to the enemy camp, but no one was there, “8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them. 9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” Imagine all those starving people in the city discovering that these two had more than they could eat in a life time, and they didn’t tell anyone?
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPe3NGgzYQ0 Penn Jillette
The book of Jonah ends with him sitting on a hillside overlooking the city wanting God to destroy it, but the people are putting on sack cloth and ashes in repentance of the message from God – five words led to an entire city turning to God. If our story told to another person can keep them from hell – how can we be silent?
Treasuring and Pondering (v. 19)
(v. 19) “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Another way of saying this is, “she kept on keeping together all these things.” Mary had just given birth in a very difficult place to deliver a child. A barn is filthy. Was there clean water? Did they have blankets? Mary would have been exhausted from labor, pushing and the pain of delivery. She would have looked a mess. But as she is sitting there with her newborn child, she is “treasuring up all these things.” She is thinking, lining up details, remembering all that she has experienced.
She was also pondering, “placing together for comparison.” Mary was going over all the details of the angel Gabriel’s words, and now the shepherds were arriving. Sometimes God takes us through things were all we can is just sit there and take it all in. She had just delivered the Savior of the world. He was healthy and there weren’t any complications. Animals were nearby, shepherds were arriving, soon townspeople would be getting there. Later magi from the east would be arriving.
But you know what? People weren’t coming to see her or Joseph – they were coming to see Jesus. You should not dress up the gospel – it is what it is. Life is messy, the way God dealt with our sin was messy, ministry often times is messy, life many times is messy. But if we point people to Christ – the focus is not on us.
What if Mary had turned people away – “no you can’t come in right now, Mary is resting.” “no one come into the barn right now, Mary is putting on her makeup.” When people came to the door she only had to point to the manger. Jesus was the main attraction.
Often we as Christians think it’s all about us, and how we look to the world – as though we must be perfect and put together before the lost, and lonely, and seeking can come in – keep Jesus the focus of your life, and then point others to Christ (not ourselves).
With all that Mary and Joseph experienced at Jesus’ birth, Mary still doesn’t understand it all. Later when Jesus begins his ministry at the wedding feast, she tells the servant to do what Jesus says, she knows he is a miracle worker. But later once he beings teaching, Mary and his brothers go to find him, Mark 3:21 “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” . . . (v. 31) “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.”
Being a Christian is a life long journey of treasuring and pondering God.
We see this same word for ponder (like Mary is doing) in Genesis 37 when Joseph is telling his brothers and his mom and dad about his dreams, “And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.” He is lining up the details and what has happened, and is trying to have it make sense. Mary takes the events, experiences, and all that is going on around her and in that moment tries to be faithful and grow in her knowledge of God.
Solomon has been described as the wisest man to have ever lived, this wisdom was a gift from God, yet he had to put forth effort. Ecclesiastes 1:13 “And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.”
With Mary we see a believer treasuring and pondering, and with the shepherds we see a overflowing desire for others to see and experience what they have seen and experienced – the Savior of the world. Both reactions are apart of worship and what it means to be a follower of Christ. God wants us to think and put pieces together, (we will do this our whole lives and never approach fully understanding God), and to put our faith in action by going outside the walls of our church.
We don’t wait until we have it all figured out (we will never have it all figured out), and it is our knowledge and personal experience of our Savior that drives us to action. We are learning and growing as we are going and doing. If all you do is sit around and learn (you are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good), and if you are just action, reacting and just doing something to be busy (you are ignorance on fire).
A while back on “The Merv Griffin Show,” the guest was a body builder. During the interview, Merv asked “Why do you develop those particular muscles?” The body builder simply stepped forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded. “What do you use all those muscles for?” Merv asked. Again, the muscular specimen flexed, and biceps and triceps sprouted to impressive proportions. “But what do you USE those muscles for?” Merv persisted. The body builder was bewildered. He didn’t have an answer other than to display his well-developed frame. I was reminded that our spiritual exercises–Bible study, prayer, reading Christian books, listening to Christian radio and tapes–are also for a purpose. They’re meant to strengthen our ability to build God’s kingdom, not simply to improve our pose before an admiring audience.
Return to Worship (v. 20)
(v. 20) “The shepherds returned (literally, went back to work), glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Sunday is over, the worship service is complete, Monday has arrived, and it’s time to go back to work. You know what this doesn’t say, is how many times they returned. When God pours out His favor upon us, and we meet the Savior, we can’t help but want to return to meet with Jesus again, and again, and again – and worship Him because his Word is true “just as He said it would be.”
When the shepherds return to worship the Savior, they glorify (lift up), and Praise (to vocally lift up) – to lift up God with all that they are, “for all the things they had heard and seen” So why do we as Christians return to worship week after week, year after year? What did they see and hear, that we also see and hear? We return to worship because . . . We Are Reminded that;
God desires to draw close to us; God sent an angelic messenger to appear before them, the heavenly host were dispatched, and they were given a very special message to share – God desires a relationship with His creation, so He sent a Savior.
Luke 2:9-14 “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” God wanted Jesus to be called “Immanuel, which means, God with us” (Isa. 7:14, Matthew 1:23).
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God desires to be close to his people. He did what was necessary to get rid of the thing that has kept us from Him – our sin.
There is meaning to life. The shepherds would return to their profession of taking care of the sheep, they would return to the pasture, but their lives were forever changed. Yes they were shepherds as before, but now they were people whom God had favored with salvation. We may all find our hands doing something with skill, craftsmanship, even calling but it is hollow without life purpose – but it is so much different when you do it for the Lord, when you seek to give Him glory first – then the profession.
Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” As the shepherds went about their routine of leading the sheep, seeing that they had water, protecting the sheep from predators, they would have been “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”
With salvation also comes a work for us to do, which may be part of our profession, or in addition to it, Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God created us and set us apart to do works prepared for us to do.
God presents wonders for us to treasure and ponder; For Mary, and angel had appeared to her and told her what was going to happen, then she became pregnant yet remained a virgin, she had given birth and there were very special guests (shepherds, magi eventually). God allows things to happen in our lives, that we should consider, ponder, and treasure.
 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke, That You May Know the Truth (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2015) 91.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume II (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 25.
 Another example is in Daniel 7:28, when the prophet has a vision, “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”
 Gary Gulbranson, Leadership, Summer, 1989, 43.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1972) 54.