Is everyone done Christmas shopping? How about cooking Christmas dinner? Have you baked the last Christmas cookie? Taken your kids to the last Christmas Play? Exchanged the last Christmas gift? You probably have, right? There may be a few after Christmas parties and get-togethers on your schedule but for the most part, all things Christmas are wrapped up and put away for next year. We spend week decorating, cooking, wrapping, shopping and preparing for one day and it’s over. Sometimes a bit anticlimactic and sometimes a little sad but I’m not here to depress you, let’s look at the good things about Christmas being here and gone another year. Like the after Christmas sales! Let’s see what the Bible says about the days after Christmas.
Luke 2:17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Christmas has just passed in our bible story, Jesus was born, the shepherds are getting ready to leave, Mary and Joseph are getting ready to pack up and leave the Inn with their new baby. Christmas has passed in our calendar year too. The presents have all been opened and the decorations start getting put away. Let me ask you a simple question, what will you do now? Let’s look and see what the people in this passage did after the big event. We usually stop reading the Christmas story when Jesus is born but the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the Inn Keeper, Jesus, and everyone else in our nativity scene didn’t stop at the birth of Jesus. They continued to live their lives but now they had to live in light of the event they had just witnessed. How do we live in light of what we just celebrated at Christmas? In this portion of scripture, we see Mary pondering after the birth of her baby.
Ponder. Ponder means to think about or consider something carefully. After Christmas is a good time to reflect on what you have just seen and heard. How many times have you heard the Christmas story? I’m sure most of you could come up here today, and tell the story. I think we all know the Christmas story but sometimes stories can become so much of a habit that we forget to stop and ponder. We forget to stop and remember why we go through the motions of Christmas. The first way to respond to the Christmas message is to make it fresh in your heart by pondering it in a new way.
If you think about it, some Christmas traditions are very strange. What other time of year do you sit around staring at a dead tree in your living room and eat candy out of your socks? There are some things about the whole Christmas story that is also pretty weird. A virgin teenager gets pregnant, she’s visited by angels, Caesar implements a tax that leads to a trip to Bethlehem but there’s no room in the Inn. God is born in a stable. It is all too incredible to believe. You have heard this story so many times but have you ever stopped to really think about it?
C.S. Lewis said, “We don’t need to be told new ideas so much as we need to be reminded of old truths”
This Christmas we remember again the true meaning of Christmas. The world had become so corrupt that God intervened by sending his son to be born not in a castle but in a manger. The Bible doesn’t tell us why Jesus was born in a barn, except that there was no room in the Inn. But if God can do anything, I would have to believe that the kinda crazy way Jesus was born was not an accident.
I like to put myself in the shoes of bible characters to make them more real and to make their situations more applicable to my life. When I put myself in the shoes of anyone in the nativity I find myself thinking the situation is crazy, I find myself asking a lot of how and why questions. If I were Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, any of them … I would be thinking ‘How is this part of the plan for my life? How is this a good thing?’ ‘God, this time I think you might just want to reconsider your plan.’ I look at certain situations in my life and find myself thinking of bible verses like Jeremiah 29:11 that tells me that God has a plan for my life, a good plan that will prosper me and not harm me. I think of verses like Romans 8:28, all things work together for the good for those who love God. I have those verses memorized but sometimes I find myself in situations where I ask lots of how and why questions. I ask how is God going to use this for good? Why can’t my life just go the way I have it pictured in my mind.
Do you ever do that? Question God? Ask: How could you let me go through this? Why is this happening to me? I know that I do. I don’t think it’s bad to question God. I’ve found myself questioning and feeling guilty about it, and then I remember that even Jesus questioned God before he was crucified and when he was on the cross. Before he was crucified he asked if there was any other way and on the cross, he asked, Father why have you forsaken me. Jesus questioned but still had faith. He didn’t question and run from God. He questioned and ran to God.
I think God planned Jesus’ birth to remind us that no matter what we find our situation to be, we aren’t too far from God. I think he planned Jesus’ crazy birth to remind us that he can use any situation for good. No matter how many angels audibly spoke to them, I think Mary and Joseph; young, not married, with a new baby were still confused. I’m sure they still had questions. We read the biblical account of Jesus’ birth and accept the crazy circumstances because we know the whole story.
We know that God sent Jesus to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. We accept the crazy because we know it had to be that way to fulfill prophecy, to get the attention of generations to come. We accept the crazy because we know the answers to the how and why questions that Mary and Joseph didn’t know.
It’s more challenging for us to accept our own crazy situations because we can’t see the big picture. We don’t know the answers yet. We don’t know how things are going to work out or why we are going through them. Isn’t it comforting to know that we are in good company asking how and why questions? Mary treasured up and pondered, thought about, questioned these things in her heart. She was going through a confusing situation but she didn’t give up because things weren’t going her way. She didn’t assume that God had forgotten about her, she accepted that God’s plan was better than her plan, no matter how crazy it seemed to be.
Maybe you are in a crazy situation right now, questioning. That’s ok, question away. It is part of pondering, just like Mary did after Jesus was born, just like Jesus did before he died. Just be careful that your pondering is partnered with faith. Don’t let your questioning be an excuse to walk away from God’s plan for your life, no matter how bizarre it seems right now. Remember that God can use anything, anyone, no matter the situation. Some crazy situations in life are like the one’s Mary and Joseph were in, planned by God to fulfill his perfect plan. Some crazy situations are created by people because we aren’t perfect. We sin and there are consequences and it makes a messy, crazy situation. I’m not saying those situations are caused by God, just that he can use them the same. There is no situation crazy or messy enough that God can’t change and use for his good. In any kind of crazy situation, God made or manmade, we have to have faith enough to give it to God and know that God knows best. He knows the How’s and Why’s that we can’t answer on our own.
What about the others in our Christmas story? What did they do after Jesus was born? The shepherds weren’t put in a crazy situation like Mary and Joseph were. The Shepherds had a choice in the matter. An angel came to Mary and told her she was going to have a baby, she was put in a situation where she needed to respond. She responded with obedience. The shepherds, on the other hand, were given a choice, the angel told them the messiah was born and told them to follow the star to Bethlehem but they could have said no.
15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They didn’t get mad at God for taking them away from their work watching sheep to follow a star to see a baby who was born in a stable. They accepted that God’s plan was better, no matter how crazy and they followed that star. After their journey, after Jesus was born, after Christmas, the bible tells us that they
20“returned (to their work, to their normal lives) glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.”
The shepherds chose to say yes to God, even when what he was asking sounded crazy.
Lysa Turkeurst is an author and speaker. She said yes to a crazy plan God had for her family. Lysa heard the Liberian Boys Choir sing in their church. The choir was touring in America to raise money for their orphanage. While they were here, their orphanage was attacked by rebels and burned down. Now the boys were not only orphans, but they were homeless. Lysa felt the Lord tell her that two of the boys were hers. With three biological girls of their own, Lysa and Art had never considered adoption. When Lysa told her husband about adopting the boys from the choir, he thought she had lost her mind. Even her four friends were shocked, but Lysa simply invited them to hear the boys sing. Then they all had a change of heart. Lysa’s friends fell in love with the boys and adopted them and others from the orphanage. A total of 40 kids has been adopted by over 14 families in their town, including the entire Liberian Boys Choir. She chose obedience just like Mary, just like the shepherds and amazing things happened.
What did the shepherds do after Christmas, with the crazy situation they had just encountered? Let’s look at verse 17 …
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
The Shepherd experienced this crazy situation and shared what they had seen. Now the obvious implication of this is that we just experienced the celebration of Christmas and as Christians, we should share Jesus with others. After the shepherds experienced a crazy situation in their lives, they used it to glorify God. They didn’t become preachers, standing on the street corners handing out Bibles. They went back to their normal lives and told people about the situation they just experienced, in doing that they brought glory to God.
I think God allows us to go through crazy situations, even the ones that we bring on ourselves so that we might have the opportunity to first have faith in him and second to share our situations with others to encourage them and point them toward Jesus. God can always turn something bad in your life into something positive but you have to be willing to let him.
What crazy thing are you going through right now that you could hand over to God and let him turn it into something positive? Maybe your life isn’t crazy right now; maybe you’re going along just fine. If that’s the case, maybe God is asking you to do something crazy, or just something you wouldn’t normally do. We just celebrated the birth of Jesus, he came to take our lives and make them new. He came to take the broken pieces and put them back together. He came to love us so we could share the same love with everyone around us. Ponder the situations in your life in light of Christmas just like Mary did and then make a choice just like the shepherds did to follow the baby that was born in the manger. The situation was crazy but thank goodness Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds didn’t let the crazy interfere with their judgment and obedience.