Peninsula Community Church
After Christmas, What?
December 27, 2015
Luke 2:17-20 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After all the gifts have been opened, the food has been eaten, the tree has been taken down, and the family has gone home; the reason for the season still remains. We must never forget that He is the reason for the season and He will always be the reason for our celebration, not just at Christmas but all year long.
In the Christmas story, there was great expectation, hope, and joy. Beyond Mary and Joseph, there was no one more impacted by expectation and joy than the shepherds who were in the field doing what they always did. They were watching their sheep. They were living life as usual and they were doing the ordinary things that ordinary shepherds always did. In the story, we do not see anything that caused them to stand out or a reason why they should be chosen to receive the news of Christ’s birth. The shepherds were certainly not special, but they were chosen and they acted in obedience by responding and acting on the news they received.
As we read the story of the shepherds, we find that when they left the manger, they left with incredible joy and overwhelming excitement. Through this we are reminded that the joy of Christmas does not end in the manger or at Christ’s birth. It is just the beginning. For that reason the spirit of Christmas, the expectations of Christmas, and the message of Christmas should be in our hearts all year long. In the passage before us today we find four ways to keep Christmas alive in our hearts.
The first way to keep Christmas alive in their hearts is to continue proclaiming the good news of what has occurred. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. The point here is that the shepherds were active in retelling the story of what they had experienced. The event moved them so much they could not help but tell the story. They continued to tell their story and they shared the message of Christ’s birth to everyone they encountered. They could not contain all they had experienced.
The message must be shared because the story of Christmas gives us hope and it is a treasure to be shared. It reminds me of a story I recently read about Luigi Tarisio. Most of you probably have never heard of Luigi Tarisio. In fact, I had not heard anything about him until I read his story this week. Tarisio was a collector of very rare exquisite violins. In total, he owned 246 violins which were worth millions of dollars. The problem was that these precious treasures were hidden away and were never shared with anyone else. One of the treasures he possessed was a priceless Stradivarius that “sat speechless for over 147 years.” After his death, these priceless artifacts were found and when the Stradivarius was finally played the beauty of the music overwhelmed the hearers and they wept at the beauty of the sound. The sad thing is that the music had remained silent for so long when it did not have to be.
This story reminds us that we can have the greatest of all treasures in our heart and yet refuse to share that treasure with others. The treasure we posses is the message of Christmas which is a message of hope, of forgiveness, of great grace, and the promise of a new life. It would be so wrong of us to have such a treasure in us and then refuse to share it with others. The music of hope needs to be played. The music of hope needs to be shared. The music of hope needs to be experienced. The Stradivarius violin is at its best when it is played and we are at our best when we share the hope of the Christmas message.
The fact is what the shepherds did, we all can do. You need no authority, no permission, and no special training to witness for Christ. Simply tell what you know to be true. Talk about Jesus. Tell others who He is and what He has done for you. Share your story and then invite others to come to Christ just as you did. Good news is for sharing. That’s what the shepherds did. That’s what all of us are called to do. This is the first way we can all celebrate Christmas all year long.
The second way we can keep Christmas alive in our hearts is to live with a sense of wonder. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. The fact is all who heard the message of the shepherd’s experience were amazed at what they heard. For some, they were filled with awe and wonder at the hope presented through the message of Christ’s birth. Imagine the exuberance they had as they retold the story of hearing an angelic choir in the middle of the night. They received such an elegant announcement only to find the Son of God in a feeding-trough surrounded by cattle and sheep. How amazed everyone was that God chose the shepherds to be the first evangelists? Can you imagine the emotions of the shepherds who found the Christ child sleeping in an environment that was so familiar to them. They knew in that moment that He had come for them.
The kind of wonder that that is expressed here is the kind of awe that comes from seeing God at work in the world. To have the divine stamped upon it causes one to wonder. It can be the most simple of things or it can be the grandeur of God’s creation. The creation of the universe out of nothing causes us to be filled with wonder. To take a hand full of dirt and make man is a thing of wonder. The fingerprints of God cause wonder and amazement all year long. But here is the amazing thing, the wonder of God continues. With all of the amazing storied of Christmas the wonder of Christmas continues and it is still in our hearts.
The third way we keep Christmas alive is to do as Mary did and ponder these things in our hearts. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Mary pondered the news of Jesus’ birth and the events that followed in her heart. The word “treasured” carries the idea of counting things up, almost like making a check list of things to be remembered. The word “ponder” means to review the events and then to go beneath the surface to understand what it all means and why it happened the way it did.
No doubt Mary went back to what happened to Zacharias and Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist. I am sure she thought about what Gabriel said, and how Joseph responded to the news she was pregnant. She must have recalled the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She recalled all the events of the birth itself, including the surprise visit of the shepherds. She certainly had plenty to think about. There is no doubt that she continued to ponder the thought of why God had chosen her, and I’m sure she pondered what was ahead for her newborn son.
This is the perfect time of the year to ponder all that God has done. There is no better time than at the end of December to ponder what God has been teaching us? What better time to look back over the last twelve months and consider the ways of God in your life? Consider how God has been working in your life this year? How has He been working in the world around you? Continue to ponder the ways that God is at work in you and through you as you journey into the new year. To continue to ponder these things keeps the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts.
The fourth way to keep Christmas alive in our hearts is to continue to glorify God. “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” The shepherds were profoundly changed by what they experienced. It is amazing what difference a day makes. On the day before Christ was born, the shepherds were in the fields tending their sheep. On the day after He was born, they were back in the fields working, only this time their hearts were filled with praise to God.
The word root word in “glorify” originally meant to have an opinion. Later, it was used to ultimately to estimate the true worth of something. We glorify those things in which we see value. To say the shepherds “glorified” God means that after seeing Jesus in the manger, they were overwhelmed by God’s power, His grace, His goodness, His wisdom, and the amazing miracle of His birth. They simply couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen and heard. Through this experience the value of Christ in their eyes was off the charts.
It is interesting to note where they did this. They did not glorify God in the temple, though that would have been appropriate. No, they returned to what they had been doing. They went back to the tiring and unappreciated work of caring for sheep. Within forty-eight hours of their visit with the baby, they were back doing what they were doing when the angel found them in the first place. It was time to go back to work. And so they did. And so must we. But for the shepherds, life would never be the same. Oh yes, the work was the same but they were different. They went back with a new zeal, a new joy, and a new love for God in their hearts.
We too must go back to what seems to be the humdrum of our daily routines. And as you go back to what is normal for you, glorify God and praise Him in all you do. That is what the shepherds did. Christmas didn’t change their circumstances, but it changed them deeply and profoundly. And because it changed them inwardly, it changed the way they approached their daily work. Yes, they still had to deal with cranky sheep and sometimes they had to step in sheep manure, but that hardly mattered now. Things were different now that they had seen the Christ child.
Have you experience the Christmas miracle? Have you seen the evidence of Jesus in your life this year? If you have, then go back to what you were doing before and take the memory of Christmas with you. Glorify God and praise Him as you go about your daily routine and you will find your days filled with joy. Go back to your job. Go back to school. Go back to what you were doing but go with a praise upon your heart. Go with the awe and wonder of Christ’s birth within you. Your circumstance may not change but your heart will. You will see life from a different perspective and you will witness a change in your heart.
And as you journey through this new year ahead of us, continue to proclaim the good news that Christ is born, be filled with the wonder of the greatness of God. Ponder and think on the things that you have experienced and have seen God do in you. And, finally keep glorifying God the mundane, every old day life experiences. In so doing, others will be touched and you will be changed in the process.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom