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Dec 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 9, 2018 – Luke 1:26-29

A “Mary” Christmas

A “Mary” Christmas

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. Luke 1:26-29

Intro: I did not know until recently that Christmas invitation cards are big business

There are invitations to visit the home of a family member or friend,
– invitations to Christmas dinners, office parties, fund-raisers, and so on
• some of us get so many invitations this time of year,
◦ we have to decide which ones to decline
• others of us may wish we had that problem
– right now, I have three Christmas invitations in mind
• they are different types of events — all three are doable
◦ but might be good to decide which one gets most of our energy
• they are:

  1. The traditional warmth of family gathering
    – my parents made every Christmas special
    – one fond memory is that before any present was opened, the family would sit around Dad and he would read the story of Jesus’ birth from one of the gospels. He would then pray God’s blessing on our Christmas day together.
  2. The mythical, commercial holiday
    – it can be exciting and even magical
    • but it can also be exhausting
    – for some of us, it is an invitation to over-indulge
  3. The invitation to celebrate Jesus
    – he became God’s answer to the longing of his people that spanned centuries

These invitations get me wondering,
Does God want me to have myself a merry little Christmas?
• I’m sure he doesn’t want me to have a miserable Christmas
• what do you suppose God wants for you?
◦ how are we going to find out?

Christmas came to Mary the same way it did to Joseph

As a complete and shocking surprise
– not as a gift so much as a calling, perhaps even a burden
• this was not something she had wanted – or even dreamed of
• and it would change the course of her life
– most of us gradually live into our destiny
• we don’t start out knowing the meaning of our lives
◦ over time, we grow into it
◦ we have to cover some ground before it comes into focus
• for Mary, however, her destiny was dropped on her all at once
◦ one day she was an ordinary girl living out a normal life
◦ the next day she was the mother of our Lord

As it was with Joseph, so also for Mary; Christmas radically altered her plans
– I wonder what she had to give up – what was taken from her
• we can venture an educated guess about some things
• but her more personal longings we will never know
– it is probably good for us to sit with our unfulfilled longings
• to get some kind of insight into them
◦ what do they tell me about myself?
◦ what kind of person am I?
◦ or what kind of person would I have been if my longings had been fulfilled?

C. S. Lewis, “For, as I say, there are two kinds of longing. The one is . . . a spiritual exercise, and the other is a disease.”

• regarding the longing that is a spiritual exercise,

William Johnston saw it as a strong human desire to see God, and that “Moses gave expression [to this desire] when he audaciously asked to see the face of God. . . . And in the mystical life, this longing becomes a gaping wound, a wound of love, the wound of one who loves God but cannot see Him.”

◦ if you have felt this wound of love, Johnston’s words are comforting
◦ if you haven’t, don’t worry about it

Mary’s immediate reaction was perplexity
Her response was to ponder

There are different ways we greet each other or begin a conversation
– each greeting gives us an idea of where the conversation is going
• for example:

“Hi Chuck! I’ve got great news . . .”
“Mr. Smith, I am sorry to inform you . . .”
“Hey Dad, are you sitting down?”

– Mary pondered what kind of greeting she had just received
• she had never heard anyone greeted in this way
◦ besides, she did not even know this person who had greeted her
◦ she had no idea where this introduction was leading
• perhaps that’s why Gabriel’s next statement was,

Do not be afraid, Mary

Gabriel’s greeting didn’t make sense, so Mary pondered it
– Mary does a lot of this in these episodes of Jesus birth and childhood
• so many strange things happen — she is given a lot to think about

Luke 2:19, Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart
Luke 2:51, His mother treasured all these things in her heart

◦ “things” literally, “words” or “things that had been spoken”
• two different words are translated “ponder”
◦ the first means “to reason,” to figure out, to make logical sense of
◦ the second means “to bring together,” (e.g., ideas), to collect and keep item
pondering promotes depth
• Mary had a rich inner life
◦ she did not just have experiences,
◦ she collected them – and pondered them
• the depth of her thought life is revealed in her poetry (vv. 46-55)

I was never a teacher’s pet and so I never understood it–

That is, until a few years ago
– one day I realized there were people who really listened to me
• who walked with me,
◦ and, in fact, even pulled ahead of me
• I don’t think of them exactly as “pets,”
◦ but they are special to me
– among those I treasure are Ed and Carmen Northen (now living in Idaho)
• occasionally Ed will send me a poem he’s written
◦ especially around Christmas and Easter
◦ I’ve read several of his poems to you
• this week he sent me another poem
◦ however, I’m not going to read it
◦ instead, I want to read you what he said in his email:

Hello Chuck, I have been working on a poem or I should say a poem has been working on me. Trying to get out.
It is interesting how our awareness of God and who he is evolves as we age.
When I think back on the early times of my faith, it was exciting, new and in many ways obligatory. Full of rules, rights and wrongs, intolerance and a quickness to judge others. While unintended I think this was the [impression] received by others. Where was the mercy and grace? I am grateful to you for teaching us this truth.
We do not need to be afraid for God, and need to accept that we cannot really understand his grace and love in the fullest sense. We just do not have a reference point other than our earthly realm.
What do we understand [of] God incarnate? Yes we see it in Jesus, God in the flesh who reveals His character and heart. We somewhat get that He is our justification and has fulfilled the requirements of the law for us. Yet most do not understand that the law has been destroyed in the sense that it no longer judges us, nor are we held to it’s standards. God incarnate means the law has been removed and replaced with Jesus.
The second part of incarnation that is not understood is God indwelling us. The fullness of the trinitarian God in Us. I meditate and ponder this continually and it remains a mystery that I am not able to perceive fully. “I see through a glass darkly.” Yet in His grace, God does reveal small moments and parts of himself, which change and alter me. God’s indwelling me is the kingdom of God present in this world. This results in both relational gratitude and service for God to his creation.
Being invited into the fellowship of the Trinity is mystery literally beyond my capacity to understand, yet I continue to pursue it.

Conclusion: What is this that I just read?

It is an example of someone who has pondered over Christmas
– and this is what I want to encourage you to do
• you have received an invitation to celebrate Jesus
◦ make time to reflect and meditate on what this means
• we don’t have to take Ed’s path or think his thoughts
◦ we can’t! – and we don’t need to
◦ we have our own hearts to probe, and treasures to discover
– you have your own perplexity
• and there are questions only you can answer, like:

◦ “What is the heart of this holiday for me? ”
◦ “Has it changed from last year?”
◦ “What is my longing? My deepest desire?”
◦ “What will be the best way for me to celebrate Christmas?”

It may be for some of us, the old magic of Christmas has drained away
Even if not, there is still a new enchantment to be discovered
Ponder the person of Jesus and re-experience the wonder

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