LESSONS FROM THE MANGER, Week 4, The Aftermath of Christmas (Luke 2:16-20)

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16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.


First Principle for Christmas:

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Luke 2:16

I was at the Christian book store picking up the books for Welcome packets and in the window they had this sign, 1. Wise men still seek Him.  I thought to myself, oh I have seen that sign so many times over the years.  And I walked on into the store.  But in store, something or someone, probably the Holy Spirit asked, Do you still seek Him?  Well of course I said in response and I received that good Godly replay from the Spirit…you sure about that?

2. It made me think.  Do I still seek Him?  I had to think about that and it is still rattling around up there in my head somewhere and some of it was creeped down into my heart.

The passage we are looking at today describes the various responses of people to the birth of Christ. How they all still sought after Jesus.  In our own culture Christmas means holly and mistletoe, parties, gifts, carols, eggnog, big meals, a decorated tree, and last-minute shopping.


Many people and Christians don’t celebrate Christmas any more because of what it has become.  Almost everything we do at Christmas time has very little to do with Jesus’ birthday, except for the giving of gifts.  Many people have no idea what it is about.  So, 3. Should we celebrate Christmas? By all means! But I have to ask, How should we celebrate this great day?




The first and most obvious answer is this. II. The Main Principle of Christmas….1. We celebrate Christmas by Coming to Christ. After all, this is why Jesus came to the earth. He was born to be a Savior. And until we can call him “my Savior,” you will never fully understand what Christmas is all about.This is where Christmas should begin for all of us.


What should be added to this? Our text describes four responses of those who first heard the news that Christ had been born. Each verse tells of a different response, and the four responses together tell us how to celebrate Christmas—not just in December but all year long.  2.  A year long Christmas!


II. Four responses to Jesus’ Birth from Luke 2:16-20




After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:17


1. Luke tells us that the shepherds ‘told everyone’ or “spread the word.” Shepherds generally came from the worst elements of society. In that day, they were so little trusted that a shepherd’s testimony would not be accepted in a courtroom. Most shepherds were considered on a par with Gypsies, vagrants, and con men. Add to that the fact that shepherds were on the lowest rung of the economic ladder and had little or no formal education. It is entirely possible that these shepherds who heard the angels singing were illiterate.


And that makes the story all the more remarkable. ? First they heard and saw the spectacular angelic revelation. ? Second they went to Bethlehem they discovered the Savior of the world in a feeding-trough in a rough, outdoor barn, perhaps a cave carved out of the rocky hillside. The birth and the revelation didn’t seem to go together. Yet there it was—all from the hand of God.


And consider this. On that night in Bethlehem, outside of Joseph and Mary, the only people in the world who knew Christ had been born were the shepherds. After the “400 silent years,” when God did not speak through prophets, he now speaks through angels to lowly shepherds on a remote hillside outside a tiny Judean village.


It wasn’t a likely way to win the world. Certainly not the way we would have done it. If we had planned it, Jesus would have been born in Jerusalem, to a wealthy family, and attended by the high and mighty. That way no one would doubt that the Son of God had come to earth.


But God’s ways and ours are not the same. He chose to reveal the news to the shepherds first of all. After their initial (and understandable) fear, they responded in faith. They believed the angel, they immediately went to Bethlehem, and they found the baby Jesus. Everything was just as the angel said it would be.


And what did they do then? ? They told everyone they met what they had seen and heard.




2) I wonder if we would have been as obedient? Would we have believed? Would we have gone to Bethlehem in the middle of the night? Would we have been as quick to tell the story?


They did what all Christians should do. They told others what they had seen and heard. They “spread the word” about Jesus. When you get down to it, that’s all evangelism is. It’s telling the good news about Jesus Christ to someone else.


What the shepherds did, we all can do. You need no authority, no permission, and no special training to witness for Christ. Simply tell what you know to be true. Talk about Jesus. Tell who he is and what he has done for you. Share your story and then invite others to come to Christ just as you did.


Good news is for sharing. That’s what the shepherds did. That’s what all of us are called to do. This is the first way we can all celebrate Christmas.




All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished. Luke 2:18


I’m sure that “astonished” or ‘amazed’ is a mild word to describe the reaction of those who heard the shepherds. The story itself would sound incredible—the part about hearing an angelic choir in the middle of the night, not to mention finding the Son of God in a feeding-trough. And to think that God chose lowly shepherds as the first evangelists.


1. It’s important to understand that there are two kinds of amazement.   1) The first has to do with temporary fascination over an unusual turn of events. If I promised that the Oakland Raiders were going to win the Super Bowl next year, that would provoke amazed laughter, to say the least. But unlikely as that is, it would not be supernatural in the literal sense. Terrible teams occasionally get lucky and win championships. It’s unusual but not miraculous.


2)There is a second kind of amazement. It’s a kind of awe that comes from seeing God at work in the world. In the deepest sense all the acts of God are grounds for being astonished since everything he does has the stamp of the divine on it. Go all the way back to Genesis and you discover that God created the entire universe out of nothing. He spoke and the stars flew into place. He spoke and the earth took up its orbit. He spoke and the rabbits and the geese and the otters began to scurry about.


God speaks and it happens. He takes a lump of dirt and makes a man. Then he takes a rib and makes a woman. To read Genesis 1-2 is to encounter something that is truly wonderful, that is, full of wonders on every hand.


The amazement continues to the very end of the Bible. Revelation 19 tells us that when Christ returns, he will have written on his robe and on his thigh, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16). From that text Handel wrote his magnificent “Hallelujah Chorus.” When Christ returns he will establish his kingdom on the earth and all earthly kings will bow before him.


i. Christmas is indeed a cause for holy astonishment. How can it be that God should become a man? How can a King be born in a feeding-trough? How could the world ignore his coming? And what sort of God comes into the world like this?


We ought to be amazed at Christmastime. If we managed to go through this Christmas season without ever pausing to think about the wonder of it all, then we have missed the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.


3. take time to ponder


19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (NIV)


1. The word “treasured” has the idea of counting things up, almost like making a list so that you will not forget anything. It’s what you do at the end of a very busy day and you want to make sure you don’t forget anything that has happened.


2. The word “pondered” goes deeper than “treasuring.”


1) It’s digging below the surface to find meaning, purpose and understanding.


2)  Asking. what it all means and why it happened that way?


3) Pondering is hard work, but this is the perfect time to do it.




No doubt Mary went back to what happened to Zacharias and Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist. I’m sure she thought about what Gabriel said, and how Joseph responded when she told him she was pregnant, and then the amazing dream Joseph had. She must have recalled the long, arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and all the events of the birth itself, including the surprise visit of the shepherds. She certainly had plenty to think about. No doubt she continued to wonder why God had chosen her, and I’m sure she pondered what was ahead for her newborn son.


Pondering is hard work, which is why many of us never get around to it. And yet this is the perfect time of the year to do it.? To look back over the last 12 months and consider the ways and works of God in your life and in the world around you?


Set aside at least an hour of uninterrupted time.


Find a quiet place. Don’t forget to turn off the TV, the iPhone, and the computer.


OPEN with a prayer asking God to show you the things he wants you to learn…to ponder.




Make a “Top Ten” list along these lines: The Top Ten things that have happened in your life in 2013. Those things can be events that happened to you personally or things that happened to others that had a major impact on you. Reflect on your Year. Make the category as broad as you like. Those things can be good or bad, victories or defeats, it doesn’t matter.




As you look at your list, ask God to show you what patterns are at work. What did God teach you? What lessons seem to come up again and again? What have learned about yourself (positively and negatively) this year?  How did God work in my life?




Now focus on the Lord. What have you learned about God’s character this year?




Ask the Lord for insight as to where he might be leading you in the year to come.  Spend some time in Praise for ’13 & Prayer for ‘14




Use all of this as the basis for some personal prayer requests as you enter 2014.




I believe if you do this exercise with an open heart, God will meet you and show you fresh insights that will give you insight about the past and hope for the future.




Mary pondered what God had been doing in her life. That’s a helpful practice for all of us to follow.




IV. Glorifying


The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:20




The final verse tells us that the shepherds were profoundly changed by what they had experienced. 1. What a difference a day makes. On the day before Christ was born, they were in the fields tending their sheep. On the day after he was born, they were back in the fields once again. Only this time their hearts were filled with praise to God.




And note where they did it. The text does not say that they glorified God in the temple, though that would have been appropriate. No, it says they “returned” to where they had been. Back to the tiring and unappreciated work of caring for sheep. That is, within 48 hours (if not much less than that) they were back where they were when the angel found them in the first place. Having seen the Babe in the manger, it was time to go back to work.




And so they did.  And so must we. Christmas eventually ends for all of us. Soon enough we will take down the tree, pack away the ornaments, and either use our gifts or take them back to the store to be exchanged. In a few days the children will go back to school and life will return to normal.




But will we be changed by Christmas? Or will it be business as usual in 2014? For the shepherds, life would never be the same. Oh yes, the work was the same but they were different. 2. They went back to work with new zeal, new joy, and new love for God in their hearts.




People sometimes wish they could keep the Christmas spirit all year long. They speak of it as if the “magic” of these days comes only once a year. But it depends on what “magic” you are talking about. If you mean the tree and the gifts and the mistletoe and the chestnuts roasting by the fire, that indeed comes only once a year. But the greater truth of Christmas is meant to warm our hearts all year long.




? Would you like Christmas to last all year long? It can if you will do what the shepherds did. Go back to where you came from.


Back to your office.


Back to your classroom.


Back to your factory.


Back to your neighborhood.


Back to your job.


Back to your family duties.




Go back to the humdrum of daily routine. And as you go back, glorify God and praise him. That is what the shepherds did. Christmas didn’t change their circumstances, but it changed them deeply and profoundly. And because it changed them, it changed the way they approached their daily work. Yes, they still had to deal with cranky sheep and sometimes they had to step in sheep manure, but that hardly mattered now. They had seen the Christ child.




? Have you seen Jesus this year at Christmastime? If you have, then go back to what you were doing  and take Christ with you. Glorify God and praise him as you go about your routine and you will find your days filled with joy.




? How shall we celebrate Christmas now that Christmas is past? Let’s follow the inspired outline in Luke 2:17-20.




? TELL EVERYONE, Proclaiming the good news about Christ.


? BE AMAZED, Celebrating God’s amazing love and works.


? TAKE TIME TO PONDER, Digging into God’s work in our lives.


? GLORIFY GOD, Celebrate Him in our daily lives.

…They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13


Start where you are and God will be with you. Do these things and you will have Christmas all year long. Amen.