Summary: There are many great truths in the Christian faith that are paradoxes - Mary was the first to ponder the great truth of the incarnation.
Pondering the Paradox of Christmas
(note: this sermon was delivered at Maranatha Christian Fellowship, Nevada, MO)
December 10, 2006
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.
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 ponder, 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. And sometimes, I’m like Mary - I ponder the great truths of the Christmas story. And like Mary, I realize that so much of it is a paradox.
1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
3. any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.
Contrary to popular opinion the word paradox doesn’t refer to when your two doctor friends hang out together. In that case, you have two doctors, or a pair of docs.
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. Things which seem mutually exclusive. For example:
Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren’t they just stale bread to begin with? Or, why, if you ask people why they have deer heads mounted on their walls, they tell you it’s because they’re such beautiful animals. Now, I think my wife is beautiful, but I only have photographs of her on the walls.
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. 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.
But seriously, if you think about it...the Christian faith often seems to be one of paradox, doesn’t it? Those of us who take the Bible seriously believe in definite black and white, and we believe in the absolute truths. Yet, there are those truths about God, about the way He does things, that we must admit are paradoxes. Jesus spoke in phrases, that to our finite understanding, we have to think, “how can that be?”
John 12:25 "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.
Now, in our understanding, in our society, in our culture, you look out for number one, don’t you? And who’s number one? We are. In our society, our culture, the expectation is that you love your life – because you love yourself…if you don’t, you’re foolish.
But here, Jesus is telling us to hate our lives in this world. Now, clearly, it’s meant to be a comparison to how we love Him and follow Him, but the statement at first blush is a paradox…because it contradicts our society’s common understanding of love of self.