Summary: A Sermon for After Christmas.
We are living in the waning moments of another year. The “holiday season” is quickly drawing to a close. The rush of preparation has culminated in a few hours of “quality time” spent with friends and family. The gifts have been opened, the food has been devoured; and for some, the house has been returned to order.
The hectic pace of the holiday season can leave us longing for a break. What some have spent months readying for is over almost before it began. Many times we find ourselves at this juncture with a tinge of melancholy . The tinsel and glitter, the lights and decorations, the olfactory delights of cinnamon and spice, are recent memories; and are replaced with the mundane sameness of every day life. The glory of Christmas is past, and the New Year looms ahead. AFTER THE GLORY, where do we go from here?
The phenomena of Christmas is not a new development. Matthew and Luke record the beautiful story of the first Christmas. The wonderful scenes of shepherds, angels, mangers, and wise men are familiar to us all. How Mary must have felt as the angel said; (Luke 1:35b), "...The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. " What Glory! The almighty God of the universe met humanity in a way He had never done before! (Galatians 4:4b-5), "… God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law," In the words of the familiar hymn, “O the love that drew salvation’s plan, O the grace that brought it down to man”!!!
Imagine the awe, the fear, and the glory the shepherds must have experienced as they were joined in the fields with a heavenly host of angels! (Luke 2:9-11), "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Talk about a change of scenery! Few had seen the glory of the Lord, and yet He choose to allow the lowly shepherds to share this experience.
Wise men came from the east to see the new born Saviour. What the very nation he came to save could not see, the magi discerned from afar. In great anticipation they inquired diligently as to where the King of the Jews would be born. (Matthew 2:9b-10), "… and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." What a glorious birth! What a glorious star! What a glorious time! No wonder they rejoiced. As the words of the familiar carol declare “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight!”
The scenes I have just reiterated are so familiar to us. The lilting phrases of the King James Bible account we have heard until they are as much a part of the tradition as anything we associate with the Christmas Season. But what happened AFTER THE GLORY? When the angels are silent, the star has long since faded, the stable, the manger, and the swaddling clothes are all but distant memories. Mary and Joseph begin the tedious task of raising a family, and making a living. The shepherds return to their flocks, and the quiet existence of solitude that has been their lot for untold generations. The wise men return to their home; although they must return a different way than that by which they came.
Yet things are not the same. Mary will never forget the things that she has experienced. There will be days when the angelic encounters will seem a surreal memory that was nothing more than a dream. There will always be the whispers of those who didn’t buy her story. And there is the challenge and the awesome responsibility of raising the Son of God. Hardly what we would consider every day life!
The shepherds on the hillside would never be the same. I’m sure there were many nights around a fire that the stories of that eventful night were rehearsed. Maybe there was a wishful heavenward gazing of succeeding generations to whom the legend had been passed down. The encounter with God’s glory left them (Luke 2:20b), "… glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen…"