December 8, 2019

Sermon for Advent Two — December 8, 2019

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Passage: Luke 2:19
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Sermon for Advent Two – Sunday December 8, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Luke 2:19 (NKJV)
19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

In the Name of Jesus Christ,
The Seed of the Woman,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Him –

We hold people to different standards…it’s a fact of life. We expect more of certain people than others.

 We ask, we expect religious leaders, who are to be men of the book, to live according to the book. When religious leaders are caught in public sins, we shake our heads and say, “He should have known better.”
 We expect that a chemist knows to be careful around certain elements.
 We expect that a mechanic knows to change the oil on his car.
 We expect that a doctor knows to wash his hands to prevent spreading disease. The list could go on.

Maybe that is why the doubts of Zacharias and the faith of the Shepherds seem to be such a stark contrast.

Zacharias was a Priest of the Living God. He was involved in the worship of the LORD. He surely knew His Law and His Promises. He believed, and lived according to God’s commands…and yet…when God sent an Angel to him with promise of a son…He didn’t believe. He should have known better, right?

The Shepherds were common folk. They were not religious leaders. They were likely simple people, and yet when God sent an angel to them, with news that the Christ had been born…they believed, they received God’s Promise into joyful hearts as true!

While Zacharias’ doubts were evident in his reply, the shepherd’s faith was also evident in both their words and actions. When the Angels left them and returned to heaven, they said to each other (Luke 2:15):

“Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They didn’t express doubts about what they had been told. They weren’t hesitant to accept the Promise of God. They didn’t say, “I don’t know about this, let’s go see if it’s for real or not.” They spoke with certainty that what they had been told had come to pass as they had been told.

They didn’t put the matter off. It was urgent. They didn’t say, “Well, we’ve still a few chores to do…when it’s more convenient, let’s see if we have time to run to town.” Rather -- (Luke 2:16):

…they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

They didn’t dismiss what they had heard and seen. After they saw the child and his mother, Mary, they were not silent. Instead (Luke 2:17):

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.

They didn’t just tell about what they saw, they reported – WHAT HAD BEEN TOLD THEM about the child. They passed on the message that God had given by means of His Angel…not just to one or two…they circulated their report widely. They told everyone they could and it had an effect (Luke 2:18):

18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

The Word of the Shepherds caused a stir. It caused those who heard it to marvel, to be amazed at what was reported to them. Yet, sadly, the words indicate that there was little lasting effect. The words indicate that the people were amazed and doubtless talked about what the shepherds had said…but then they moved on with their lives.

Isn’t this what often happens when something amazing occurs? People talk about it for a few weeks and then gradually the matter is forgotten, it passes from our minds and thinking. The excitement of the moment is replaced by the rather mundane day to day activities of life.

What was once reported in excited tones is forgotten, and silence returns.

The Silence of Zacharias was a forced silence born of his refusal to believe God’s Promise. It was a lesson to us about not doubting but firmly believing God’s Promises…especially the Christmas Promise.

Today we meditate upon the silence of the Virgin Mary. Mary’s silence was nor a forced silence, but the thoughtful silence of meditation. It is for us a lesson meant to lead us to meditate, to think carefully upon the Promises of God.

May God the Holy Spirit bless our consideration of His Word, and lead us to take time to meditate on and carefully consider the Promises of our God. Amen.
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So was Mary a quiet girl? Well, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, I’ve always pictured Mary as a young, quiet, meek, God-fearing girl. But once again, the Holy Spirit has not seen fit to picture Mary in full detail. In fact, the Gospel writers tell us very little about her.

Even though she was the one chosen by the Almighty to carry to term and give birth to the Savior of Humankind, there are only a few of her words recorded in the Scriptures.

We haven’t been slighted. The Spirit of God tells us what we need to know. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible says little about Mary herself. After all, she is not the focal point in the message of God’s Salvation. The Gospel, the Good News which is the power of God granting salvation, is all about Jesus, the Christ. Lest we make more of Mary than we ought, the Spirit of God gives only basic information about her.

We do know that Mary believed God’s Promise to her, as unbelievable as it was. The same Angel sent to Zacharias was also sent to Mary, with a different and even more tremendous message (Luke 1:28, 30-33):

And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!...Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Even though Mary asked how it would be possible, unlike Zacharias, she did not doubt God’s Promise to her. When the angel answered her question, she said in faith (Luke 1:38):

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord!
Let it be to me according to your word.”

So was Mary silent when the Savior was born? If you look, you’ll notice that not one word of Mary is recorded. Well, perhaps that’s why Phillips Brooks wrote (TLH 647:3):

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given…”

We don’t know if Mary cried out in pain. We don’t know if Mary said a word to the Shepherds. In fact, what we are told leads us to believe that Mary was silent. The Spirit of God reveals none of her words, but only what was going through her mind. We are told simply (Luke 2:19):

19 But Mary kept all these things…

Mary’s was not a silence born of doubt…but rather the silence of meditation. What Mary did with God’s Promise and the things that happened is of importance to us because it shows us what we should be doing with God’s Promises.

Mary did two things…she kept all these things and she pondered them in her heart.

She kept all these things? She didn’t forget them…how could she? This doesn’t mean merely that she didn’t want to forget the birth of her first child. The word means, to protect, keep watch over, to guard or treasure. Moreover, it wasn’t just a onetime thing, she treasured every minute, over and over. Like the Psalmist David (Psalm 119:11), who hid God’s Word in his heart, so Mary hid the things that happened in her heart. She didn’t ever want to forget them.

But it wasn’t just that she wanted to remember them, she also wanted to meditate on and understand every word. For we are also told that she:

…pondered them in her heart.

Mary meditated about what she had been told by the Angel. She kept on thinking about what the shepherds had said. She (literally) threw the sayings around in her heart. It was an ongoing thing, not a onetime activity. The Promise of God was to her like a jewel to be turned over and looked at from every angle.

Many people are struck by the story of the Savior’s birth. We can understand why people are emotionally affected by the story of Jesus’ birth. We can understand that people feel for a child born in such humble circumstances.

But real, lasting benefit can come from meditating on the great facts of our Salvation.

Why Christ had to be true God and true Man.
Why Christ was born, what he came to do.

Mary took time to think carefully about what the Angels had said. She wanted to fully understand what it meant to her…and for her. Mary had the right idea!! There is no doubt that her faith also was blessed.

Do we take the time to study and meditate on God’s Word? I’m not just talking about now, or in other services or Bible Class. This is too important for us to merely give it an hour a week. Oh, but we are busy, aren’t we. Too busy..?! Honestly, what activity trumps God’s Word?

I speak to myself first when I say, “Shame on me, shame on us for not taking our faith and its nurturing more serious.” True Faith is the lifeline that connects us to Christ Jesus. It is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. There is nothing more important than fortifying our faith in Christ.

Do we take it seriously?

A Rock climber or parachutist, unless he has a death wish, carefully checks and re-checks his equipment, lest it fail and he fall to his death. How often do we fortify and build up our faith by meditation of His Word of Promise? Faith’s grip is made stronger by the Words and Promises of God. God help us that nothing hinder care of and concern for our faith in Christ Jesus.

Mary’s silence, the silence of meditation, is a good example for us. Mary remembered the Word of God brought by angels and she thought often and deeply about it. She believed in the child she gave birth to as the Savior of the world…and of her own soul.

We also believe in Him. Praise our gracious Father for sending Him. Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

Despite the fact that we have often placed other things before Christ, things of lesser importance by far…relegating Him to second and third place in our lives, when he deserves to be first and alone…still in mercy He still makes us His first priority and begs us to come to him, and promises to give us rest from our burden of sin.

He still forgives. He still pleads for us at the throne of God.

He still says, “This is my Body given for you. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Lord Christ, Grant us an extra measure of your Spirit this Advent that we may earnestly meditate upon your Word. Help us to turn over in our minds the message of your coming and loving sacrifice, that we may rejoice and be filled with true Christmas Joy. Amen.