Part 4 of the series The Birth of Christ
You can listen to this sermon here.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made know to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heart 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 (Luke 2:15-20).
Every family has its own Christmas traditions. When I was a kid, every Christmas Eve we’d go to our church’s Christmas Eve service and then take a drive to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights. Before we went to bed, we’d eat chips and dip and watch a Christmas movie.
Around the world, there are many unusual Christmas traditions. In Caracus, Venezuela, it is customary to travel to Christmas church services on roller skates. In Italy, a witch named Befana hands out presents to children at Christmas. In Germany, children leave a boot or shoe outside their bedroom door on Dec. 5. If they have been good, a tree branch covered in goodies will be their reward. If they have misbehaved, they will find only a branch. In Norway, it is said that Christmas Eve coincides with the arrive of evil spirits and witches, so households hide all of their brooms before they go to sleep. In Portugal, during the traditional Christmas feast, families will sometimes set extra places at the dinner table for deceased relatives. In Japan, the traditional Christmas dinner for many is Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There are many ways to celebrate Christmas. In Luke 2:15-20, we discover how the original Christmas was celebrated.
Believing in Christmas
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made know to us’” (v. 15). The shepherds believed the message God revealed to them through the angel. The angel had said, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11).
The Christmas story does us no good unless we believe it.
The shepherds “went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (v. 16). The baby lying in that manger was God in human flesh. Jesus “is God,” and he “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).
How should we celebrate Christmas? The shepherds and Mary show us three ways we should celebrate Christmas.
1. Share the good news of Christmas.
“When [the shepherds] saw [the baby lying in a manger], 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” (vv. 17-18). The news of Jesus’ birth was “good news of great joy” (v. 10). A Savior had been born. The news was so amazing that the shepherds couldn’t keep it to themselves.
We also have good news to share—not only the good news of Jesus’ birth, but also the good news of his death and resurrection. But we have many excuses why we don’t share the gospel. One excuse is that we don’t feel qualified. But neither were the shepherds. They were uneducated men.
2. Ponder the miracle of Christmas.
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). We should not let the busyness of Christmas to prevent us from pondering the miracle of the incarnation.
Ponder that almighty God became a baby. The one who made the stars slept in a manger. The one who fashioned the earth sucked his thumb. The one who gave life to the human race cried for his mother’s milk. The one who created the fish of the sea, the bird of the air, and the beasts of the earth became vulnerable (cf. Matt. 2:13). Paul writes, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: [Jesus] was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
Ponder that God lived life as a human. He learned (“increased in wisdom,” Luke 2:52). He worked. He was tired. He was tempted. He was betrayed. He was mocked. He suffered. He experienced what we experience (without sin). He is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).
3. Worship the God of Christmas.
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (v. 20). The shepherds returned to their jobs, but they continued to worship God. Worship is not something that is only done on Sunday mornings, it is a way of life.