Monday, December 25, 2006

A Time for Eveything

A Time for Everything

The Nativity of Our Lord

Christmas Day

Sunday, December 25, 2006

Luke 2:1-20

There’s something about the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke that evokes a famous passage of Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3. It’s the one that begins with “there is time for everything done under heaven”. Then it gives many examples: “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted”; and so on.

When you look at what all is in the account Luke gives us of the birth of Jesus you begin to see that there’s a lot of rejoicing in there and the telling of the Good News. You also begin to see that mostly this surrounds the experience of the shepherds in hearing the Good News from the angels and then telling others.

But surrounding these extraordinary events of the shepherds are moments of quiet. Not jumping up and down for joy; just simple quiet. The actual description of Jesus’ birth is told almost matter-of-factly. And then we hear about the shepherds and all the joy, and then it goes back to Mary and the description of her quietly pondering all that has happened.

So I thought there might be something in Ecclesiastes 3 about there being time for joy and a time for quiet. One of them says: “a time to mourn, and a time to dance”, but that doesn’t fit since Mary wasn’t mourning at all. She was quietly pondering.

The closest one is this: “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”. Mary was silently taking all this in while the shepherds were hard at it in making it known. And this is important for us to know. The birth of Christ calls for celebration even as it calls for quietly pondering it. It calls for joy, even as it moves us to stand in awe of it, at times to the point of silently meditating on it.

There is a time for everything under heaven. We would do ourselves well if we balanced out our observance of Christmas with both joy and quiet pondering. Because it’s in this balanced observance that we begin to see the fullness of what it means that God became a man. There is a time for both, and we miss out on the fullness of what Christ has done for us by being born if we never exult in the pure joy of it. And if we never quietly consider the awesomeness of this miracle we might get stuck in pure emotionalism.

Perhaps this is why Ecclesiastes 3 puts all the things there is a time for under heaven into perspective when it begins saying: there is “a time to be born, and a time to die”. We love Christmas, don’t we? We often do very much feel the joy of the extraordinary event. Jesus was born! The Savior came into the world! There is a time for birth, and who doesn’t rejoice at the fruition of a long-expected pregnancy?

But as much as we like to think about birth and life and the joy it brings; as much as we rejoice in the Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem; there is a time to die. Christmas might not seem the right time to focus on that. But there is never a bad time to be reminded that when it comes to Jesus, there was a time to die. His birth was about His death. His life was for the purpose of His death.

When it comes to God saving the world from sin, there is a time to be born and a time to die. And that’s why Jesus was born. So He could die. And that is reason to rejoice! He was born in order to live in perfect fulfillment of God’s Law as we have not done. And He suffered on the cross in order to take on Himself the curse that is ours for the sin we have committed against the holy God. There is nothing which can bring greater joy.

And yet, let us meditate on this also. If we ponder all of this in our heart, we will get a little taste of what Mary marveled at in the midst of those startling things the shepherds were saying. Marveling at the still unbelievable privilege of giving birth to the Savior of the world.

And in our joy as well as our quiet meditation, we will begin also to ponder all these things in our hearts. As we also take in all that has been said about our Lord who was born at Bethlehem. As we give honor to the one who was struck down at Calvary. As we ourselves partake of that very Body and Blood that had its beginning at Bethlehem and was given in sacrifice at Calvary. It’s in the Lord’s Supper that we experience what this passage describes: this joy that cannot be contained and this quiet marveling that God is so great that He comes in a humble baby in order to save the world from sin and death.

This is the sustenance for the new life we have in Christ. There is a time for everything. To receive from God and to rejoice in what He has given us. Amen.

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