Summary: The amazing theology of Christmas includes paradoxes like the Incarnation, and this theology is worth our prayerful pondering at Christmas and always
December 12, 2010
Luke 2:8-19 (NIV) 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 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." 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 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 were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
In this very familiar Christmas story, I want to focus this morning not on the angels, not on the manger, not on the shepherds, but on this verse:
Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
At Christmastime, I like to sit and think, too. I like to sit in my living room, with all the lights off, except for the lights of the Christmas tree. I like to listen to Christmas music, and ponder.
Sometimes, my thinking isn’t anything particularly spiritual. It may involve family or Christmas memories, or something else altogether. But sometimes, I’m like Mary - I ponder the great truths of the Christmas story, and the reality of what it all means in God’s great plan of salvation.
At Christmastime, we tend to get caught up sometimes in the sentimental – I think that’s why there seems to be more depression in people evident during the Christmas season. But there’s a deep theology encompassed by what we celebrate at Christmas, and even though the word “theology” often prompts thoughts of dry and boring, the theology of Christmas is anything but that – it’s among the most significant things we can spend our time thinking about.
Mary clearly didn’t think of herself as a scholar or theologian, but whether she considered it this way or not, she was thinking theologically as she treasured and pondered the things she heard, witnessed, and experienced.
Now, when Mary treasured up these thoughts, when she pondered them in her heart, she didn’t know all we know today – she didn’t have the vast deposit of scriptures that include the New Testament. She was clearly a woman of God, so she likely knew the scriptures. Yet, she could not have possibly understood all the implications of what she witnessed, and what she heard. At least not just yet. Nevertheless, she was a thinker.
And she had to truly wonder at what she experienced. We see this wonder when the angel Gabriel announced to her she was pregnant.
Luke 1:34 (NASB95) Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
Another reason I’m like Mary, and maybe you are too…I realize that so much of what we know from scripture is a paradox, and paradoxes cause us to wonder.
1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
2. any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.
Paradox is not quite, but close to, the meaning of oxymoron.
ox•y•mo•ron n., pl. -mo•ra Rhet. a figure of speech which produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.”
There are a lot of paradoxes and oxymorons in the world we live in. Seemingly impossible things, seemingly contradictory things which though seemingly impossible are really fact. Things which seem mutually exclusive. For example:
Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren’t they just stale bread to begin with? Paradoxes.
Or how about this: Why do bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks? It’s a paradox. Or consider this: The hardness of butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread. The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it. And, if Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends? If the 2 pencil is so popular, why is it still 2? These are paradoxes.