In my heart-crave for a Christ-filled Christmas, I have to resist pointing a disapproving finger in my own direction for not measuring up to seasonal standards. Do this; don’t do that. Share this; don’t share that. Show gratitude this way; don’t show it that way. Praise God this way; don’t praise Him that way.
And I writhe to rouse myself from this rivalry ruse!
While taking in Luke’s account of the Christmas story, God faithfully pointed His finger in the direction of His perspective nestled beautifully within the story of Christ’s birth. My distracted heart found its center in the center of a beautiful contrast between the response of simple shepherds concerning Jesus’ birth and that of a humbly willing young girl.
THE SHOUT OF THE SHEPHERDS
Bless the shepherds living in the fields for accepting their vocation! How trying it must have been to be separated from family, exposed to dangers, vulnerable to attack and at times, well, bored stiff. The lull of monotony must have been uninspiring. Yes, I’d say it would have taken extraordinary stick-to-itiveness, pluck and grit even, to maintain focus on purpose.
What a payoff it was for these loyal ones, the chosen herdsmen, whom the Lord blessed with an angelic appearance! The welling fear from their encounter was short-lived as they took in the words spoken by the heavenly being.
They heard of a plentiful joy, a great joy, an overwhelming joy now available to ALL. The angel commanded their attention as he broadcast the birth announcement of the Messiah, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11)!
I imagine they were captivated as the angel emphatically instructed them to go now and search for the sacred birthplace to see for themselves what they’d been told was true. And when they set eyes on a cloth-wrapped baby lying in a manger, they would know they had arrived (Luke 2:12).
They had their marching orders; they were on a Messiah-finding mission.
Yet, as if the authoritative visit from one angel was not enough inspiration, God fueled their enthusiasm with the appearance of a God-praising angel army of rabble rousers (Luke 2:13-14)! If the shepherds lacked any zeal before, they didn’t now!
As they journeyed, it seems their spirits did not wane. When they arrived to find Christ, they were boisterous in telling their account of how they came to find Him. I can almost imagine their over-the-top narrative of sheep and angels and how they braved the unknown paths. Their animated facial expressions and hand gestures must have inspired an enthralling wonderment for those listening (Luke 2:17-18).
What a thrill it must have been for these shepherds to leave everything they’ve ever known, journey to an unknown destination and joyfully share the God-given blessings on their hearts!
As Mary heard the shepherds’ stories, however, her response was the other extreme.
A MOTHER’S MUSING
I imagine Mary as a quite young girl who honored her parents, loved her neighbor and revered her God. In Luke 1:28 and again in Luke 1:30, we learn of God’s presence in and favor on her life. Surely she had a rich prayer life and devotion to God’s statutes.
When hearing of the Lord’s plan for Mary to mother the world’s Savior, her response was one of humility and selflessness: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). This circumstance, cloaked in (humanly) dire uncertainties, did not waver her beyond-her-years faith.
Following the shepherds’ arrival, the Bible shares a significant detail concerning Mary’s character in response to their report:
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
She didn’t shout or laugh with joy or repeat the shepherds’ words. She didn’t rehash their events or ask questions or share her feelings and thoughts.
Mary absorbed it all, cherishing each and every miracle moment. She remained in a silent awe as she pieced detail with detail, wonder with wonder. Did she contemplate her simultaneous roles as mother, sister and child to the Boy King? Did her heart yet rest on His magnificent glory as she nurtured Him from her breast?
I wonder, did she know about the tree? Had God yet filled her faith with the tree?
Not a Christmas tree. I’m talking about the other tree –the Easter tree – the one that would, in a split second, break her mother’s heart through death while gloriously binding her to her Son for eternity.
We don’t know. But we know she pondered. And she treasured. In the glory sounds, she found quiet and rest to do these things.
IT’S YOUR TURN
These two starkly opposite responses are a message to everyone who celebrates the Messiah’s birth. It’s not about if we do one or the other or that we respond in a certain way.
It’s that we DO respond.
We respond to the Baby King’s first coming while we anticipate the splendor of His second. We receive that He first loved so we could have a second birth.
So, what is your response? When the Light of the World shines His story in your heart, what’s next? Let Him decide. And when you do respond, you will become a part of the Nativity in a way that only you can.
Happy birthday to the Christ and Merry Christmas to you all!
Amen and amen.