what we can learn from those who were there
Christmas day, and all it’s celebration, is now in the rear view mirror. It can leave us feeling a bit deflated. There was all this build up and then it’s over. The anticipation of family time and coziness and delicious food and then it’s done.
Or, maybe this Christmas was particularly hard. The family gatherings were strained or didn’t happen at all. You were just hoping to make it through the day intact.
Whether a highlight of your year or a low-light, December 25th is past.
As we get back to work or start cleaning up the decorations and putting away the tree, let’s pause and consider…
What was it like for Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds after that first Christmas?
Picture the shepherds, returned to their flocks, out in the field. They look out over their sheep and talk over the experience of the angels, some of them wondering if it was all a dream. One comments on how, when finding that newborn baby in a manger, being in his presence was unlike anything they had experienced. They marvel, shake their heads when words don’t come, and sit in awe as they think about what it all may mean.
Luke 2:17-18 tells us that “when they [shepherds] had seen him [Jesus], they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
The shepherds, the very first human missionaries, were the ones to spread the good news that salvation had taken the form of a person and come to earth. The shepherds were so thrilled by this experience, they couldn’t keep it to themselves! Jewish tradition points to the fact that these shepherds that were visited by the angels were actually part of the family of Levi – the priestly order. They were the members of the priesthood who were in charge of watching the sheep that would be used for temple sacrifice.
I love the idea that God would send His messengers to tell the best news of all to a group of lowly shepherds. But I also love that God sent His messengers to the group of priests who all about sacrifice and sin and the need for atonement and the true need for a Messiah to come. And, when they heard the news, they “made haste” to find the baby. But, they didn’t stop there, they “spread the news” about the child – meaning – they were speaking in the Jewish temple and telling other Jews about the new born King.
And then there is Mary. When I think about what I was like the days after giving birth, I picture her as exhausted, sore, and just wishing for a little quiet. Though she had bore the Creator of the world, he came as a human so there still had to be middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes.
But, unlike us, when we think about what our little baby may grow up to be, Mary and Joseph already had a glimpse through the angel Gabriel’s message. So, while she held baby Jesus, coaxing Him back to sleep, I see her in quiet contemplation, a smile on her lips as she reminisced the past few days, thought about what all it meant, and pondered on the future.
Luke 2:19 tells us that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
She didn’t go out proclaiming the arrival of Emmanuel like the shepherds. Instead, she considered what Gabriel had told her, the experience she just had of bringing God’s son into the world to the surroundings of a livestock, and the joyous arrival of shepherds exclaiming that angels had told them of Jesus’ birth. She took what she had experienced and held it dear to her heart, pondering what the Lord had done and what He promised would come.
For Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, the celebration wasn’t over. Though the first Christmas day had passed, they were still rejoicing and looking forward, knowing their King had come.
They knew this was just the beginning.
The Lord is here, Emmanuel, God with us. The arrival day is past, but Jesus is in our presence every day. May we carry that joy of Christmas with us throughout the year. Not necessarily the happiness you get from coziness, family gatherings, and good food.
But the joy that lasts when you stand in the presence of your King and know you belong.
May we go as the shepherds, sharing the Good News with those around us – proclaiming that our Savior has come and that there is hope for every one who believes.
May we go as Mary as well, taking God’s word and the experiences He gives us and treasure them in our heart. May we ponder on what He has done for us and what He has promised He will do and glorify Him in our life.
And may we not see this as the end of a season, but truly the beginning.
I love these words from the Christmas carol: The Babe of Bethlehem. A gentle reminder that Christmas Day isn’t the end of a season, but just the beginning:
Be not content this Babe to know
Nor stay at Bethlehem.
But go with Christ to Calvary’s brow
‘Tis there men learn to know the Christ
For there He bore man’s sin.
So open wide the door of heart
And let the Savior in.