St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Being Ready for Christmas

Text: Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

“Are you ready for Christmas?” How many times have you heard that over the past number of days, weeks? Implied in that question is the realization that this time of year can be an especially busy one. There are those Christmas gifts to shop for and wrap. Decorations inside and outside the house have to go up. Christmas cards and letters need to be addressed and sent out. Usually, there are Christmas parties to go to at work or school. There is extra baking that is done. How can anyone truly be ready for Christmas? Well, the fact is Christmas is here. Any shopping that needed to be done is done. The decorations are up. Maybe you have your Christmas cards out. In all likelihood, the only cooking that still needs to be done is for your Christmas Day meal. In other words, you have done all that you can do. It’s time to stop and take a breath. It’s time to put all of those things aside and think about why we are here this evening. We are here to think about what God gave to us that first Christmas.

We read in Luke 2:19, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” You think you had a busy Christmas? Think about what Mary did that first Christmas. Nine months earlier, the angel Gabriel came to her with the news that she had been selected by God to be the mother of the Messiah. Then, she went to her fiancee with the news that she was pregnant through the working of the Holy Spirit. In spite of outward appearances, Joseph believed her and took her home as his wife. She traveled to Jerusalem to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in the womb of Elizabeth leaped for joy. After staying with her for some time, Mary returned to Nazareth. Then came the announcement of a census that was taking place that would require everyone to go back to their ancestral hometown. This meant that Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, some seventy miles, when it was close to the time when she was to give birth. When they got there, there was no room for them, other than in a stable. When she gave birth, there were no relatives there to assist, except her husband. Then, in came some shepherds, who told of an angel’s appearance, telling them that the Savior was born. This was followed by an angelic choir singing God’s praises. As the shepherds left, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” When all was said and done, she stopped and thought about everything that had happened and she kept them as a treasure in her heart.

What a wonderful example for us to follow this evening. Yes, we have been busy over the last number of weeks. Now, however, let us put all of that aside and ponder the miracle that took place that first Christmas. The first thing that we need to call to our minds is the reason why Jesus came to the earth. When the angel spoke to Joseph about the child, he was told, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus came to the earth to be the Savior from our sins. The first thing that we are reminded of is the fact that we are, by nature, sinners. Just think over the past couple of weeks as we have been rushing from one thing to another, have we let the busyness of everything get to us? Have we been patient with everyone around us? What about that person who brought so many things into the checkout line in front of us, and it seems that there was a problem with every single thing that they put up on the counter? If you have children, what about their enthusiasm as Christmas approached? What about our co-workers? The fact is when we are not as loving and compassionate as we should be, we sin and deserve to be punished by our God for all eternity. It is not just those huge sins, according to our eyes, that should be punished. It is even for our sinful words, thoughts, and attitudes. We take a few moments and ponder what we are and what we deserve because of our sins.

Once we have done that, then we are ready to ponder the wonderful news of Christmas. In a few moments, our children will remind you of the Christmas story. It is an account that we have probably heard many times before. However, that does not make the message any less meaningful or precious. Listen to them, as they remind you of that birth being foretold for generations. God’s people waited and waited for the Messiah to come. We will also have the privilege of hearing the fulfillment of those prophecies that night in Bethlehem, when our Savior was born. We join with the shepherds in leaving our day to day lives and journeying to see the child lying in the manger. That is what our Christmas Eve service is all about. The angel announces to us as he did to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” We pause and reflect on what happened that night.

Yet, we also know that this is not the end of our journey. We must also travel to a hill outside of Jerusalem and take note of what we see there. We see this same Jesus some thirty-three years later. We see that he is nailed to a cross. We watch as he suffers and dies. We ponder what happens here, because we also know that this was all part of God’s plan. This Jesus has been sent to suffer the penalty for our sins. While on that cross, he is not only suffering as a result of his crucifixion. He is also suffering the very torments of hell, so that we would never have to. Jesus took all of our sins with him to the cross, where he paid for every single one of them. We ponder on Jesus’ words, as he cries out in victory just before his death, “It is finished.”

There is another place where we need to go, and that is in a garden not far from the place where Jesus was crucified. Actually, we are looking into a tomb that was carved from the hillside. As we look in, we note that the grave is empty. Jesus did not stay dead. He rose from the grave, victorious over sin, death, and the devil. Because this has happened, we know that our sins have been forgiven and eternal life is ours. Take a few moments and ponder the wondrous news of the angels, “He is not here. He has risen, just as he said.” Once we have done this, then the message of Christmas will find its true meaning in our hearts.

The days before Christmas can be filled with all sorts of hustle and bustle. It may seem, at times, like we are chasing our tail. How wonderful it is that this tradition of a Christmas Eve service has developed among us. It gives us time to put all of that aside and remember why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus came to the world to be our Savior. May we, also, treasure “up all these things and pondered them in [our] hearts.” Amen.