Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Christmas Day / Monday December 25th 2017 - / Luke 2: 15-19 / "How is Your Heart this Christmas?"
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Monday December 25th Christmas Day 2017: Season of Christmas / Luke 2: 15-19 “How is Your Heart this Christmas?”
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. How’s your heart? I’m not talking about cholesterol or pacemakers or bypasses. How is your heart? Christmas can be a stressful time for the heart. I’m not talking about angioplasty or cardiology or blood pressure. How is your heart?
Every day we talk about the condition of our hearts without even thinking about it: You have probably said that “Absence makes the Heart grow fonder” or told someone that a movie, or ride, or experience was “Not for the faint-Hearted” or maybe you know someone who is a “bleeding Heart” or perhaps someone you know has a “Heart of Gold.” Have you ever “Set your Heart on something?” or “Put your Heart and Soul into something?” Have you ever felt your Heart Sink or have you had your heart skip a beat? Have you been at your Heart’s content or have you had the cockles of your Heart warmed by something. Apparently the cockles of your Heart are the ventricles, originally named "cochleae cordis" because early anatomists thought their shape resembled that of a snail shell and they applied the Latin word for a snail shell to what they were looking at in the heart.
We talk about the heart in an abstract way all the time but “at its Heart” the Heart isn’t all that abstract. We sometimes wear our Hearts on our sleeves; we sometimes do a half Hearted job at something; we have Heart-to-Hearts with our dearest friends; we have our Hearts broken and torn out and stepped on; we may even have a ‘change of Heart.’ When something tragic happens, our Hearts go out to victims and survivors, often we try to have our Heart ‘in the right place’ and if something is serious we will ‘take it to Heart.’
So how is your heart this Christmas Morning? Is it sad, are you morning the loss of a loved one, are you having a Blue Christmas? Is it bursting with joy? Has something exciting happened like a birth of a child, a grandchild, a great grandchild, in your own family? Whatever feelings you have deep down in your heart there is something else we need to remember about our heart, Jesus says that “from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” And we with King David who was caught in adultery pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
We have hearts that are full of feelings some good, some wicked. Some people think that the historical reality and truth of Christmas is not as important as having ‘Christmas is in the Heart.’ You know, that it’s not as important as really feeling Christmas in the heart not as important as having that ‘Christmas Spirit.’ Some people think that such feelings can be whipped up with all those schlocky advertisements and sentimental TV shows and movies, that the heart can be jumpstarted by the frivolous songs that are fun to sing but don’t proclaim Jesus, that all the tinsel and blinking coloured lights are what in the end adds up to, or I guess boils down to, “that warm and fuzzy feeling,” all the stuff that contribute to what people refer to as “Christmas Spirit.” Is that the stuff that gets people into the mood for Christmas, without which they suppose they won’t feel Christmas deep down ‘in the bottom of their heart of hearts.’ Ask yourself; wouldn’t Christmas be Christmas without these things? If you only had the Words we read from the Gospel of Luke this morning would the birth of Christ mean less to you? In a World that says that you will know what is true by what you feel in your heart and that just feeling love, or happiness, or excitement, or desire is good enough we are left to confess that being a Christian at Christmas is not simply all about having a felling; it’s not about the warm and fuzzy feeling, even though feeling warm and fuzzy is nice.
Mary was not treasuring up “warm fuzzy feelings” in her Heart – She was treasuring up the miraculous passing of momentous events, treasuring up memories of actual events, of real things. St. Luke, who wrote, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of Luke, where we get our Gospel reading from this morning, was a very good historian. But Luke didn’t see what he was writing as being a history as such. He wrote the Gospel during an intense period of persecution and his intent was to provide an accurate and orderly account of the life of Jesus right from His birth to His ascension into heaven, so that a Christian named Theopholis would be well informed about the facts surrounding the faith he believed in his heart.
You see, just like you can be sure your new car will start when you turn the key, without knowing every detail of the workings of the engine – without having read the owner’s manual: So too can it be for the Christian. A Christian can go through much of their life with deep Faith and poor knowledge. Luke desired to provide a Gospel, provide the good news to Theopholis in such a way that Theopholis would have both deep faith and knowledge of the events of the life of Christ. This was particularly important in the face of persecution but also important in living life daily as a Christian.
The text from Luke: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This text, suggests very strongly that Mary was one of the firsthand, eyewitness sources of the information Luke compiled and that the account of Jesus’ birth came in part from her.
Have you ever learnt something so well that you ‘knew it by heart?’ Even after many years do we know the Christmas story by heart? If a complete stranger, a Muslim let’s say or maybe a Hindu person, someone from a non-Christian background, asked you to tell them the Christmas story because they had never heard a Christian tell it – would you be able to tell it from heart? Is this what is meant when we hear the phrase – “Christmas is all in the heart?” Could it mean that you have read, marked, and inwardly digested God’s Word about the birth of Christ Jesus in such a way that you simply have it right there in your heart wherever you go? Is that what makes Christmas really Christmas?
How is your heart? Do you feel guilty when your heart isn’t in the Christmas Spirit – Have you thought to yourself, while stuck in a long line, that if you see one more wreath, one more bow, one more Santa, one more Christmas light ‘I’m going to loose it:’ Did you have an argument with someone about how much money to spend on something or have you had a fight about who’s family to visit or where to go on what day (because you know ‘home is where the Heart is’): are you celebrating Christmas for the first time without someone you love there at the table or has it been years and it still feel like the first time without them? Like I said are you having a blue Christmas?
If having ‘Christmas in the heart,’ has nothing to do with fuzzy feelings or memorizing the Christmas story word for word or having some kind of abstract Christmas Spirit what is it about anyway?
If we trust our heart for guidance we will surely blow it, because without Christ Jesus our hearts are full of evil and will guide us astray. At such times St. John provides comfort to you when he writes in his letter 1 John, “When our heart condemns us, fear not, because God is greater than your heart.” Jesus, no longer a baby in the manger, but as a grown man – fully man and fully God gives us these words of comfort, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulations [troubles]. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Not long after that Jesus went to the Cross and suffered and died. But He didn’t stay dead, Jesus conquered death and came up from the tomb and in that miracle our sins were atoned for, our sins were washed in the blood of Jesus, our hearts are made new by the shedding of the blood that pumped in His heart, the same heart that was born of the Virgin Mary and swaddled and laid to rest in a manger back in Bethlehem. Our little Lord Jesus – our little Baby King so precious and sweet, visited by shepherds and serenaded by angel choirs became the source of our forgiveness and the fount of our every blessing.
For each of you who have been baptized, listen to this, and for each of you who have yet to be baptized consider this: As baptized Christians Jesus is in your heart. St. Paul once asked the Corinthians, He asked, “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Christ Jesus is in you.” As it turns out Christmas is all in the heart, in your heart, whether you feel it or not because without Jesus there is no Christmas. For Christians baptism is the tangible thing that we can point to, the place where we can say with confidence – there, there that is how I can be certain that Jesus is in me, in my heart. Having Jesus in your heart isn’t always a warm and fuzzy feeling but it is a treasure unmatchable. Jesus is Christmas, without Him we would be lost.
So how is your heart this Christmas? If you feel miserable, depressed, ready to break down at the drop of a hat, if the weight of your sin is too much, if you don’t feel what you think you should, if you’re sick or hurting, if your heart isn’t in it: Remember Jesus is in your heart – Jesus will forgive any sin, just ask – Jesus loves you with a pure heart when your heart can’t. As a Christian the prognosis of your heart is good. Remember this and treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart: Just as Mary did; because her faith and your faith and my faith are built on Jesus Christ and He is “the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Jesus is with you always – May He always Bless you hearts, Merry Christmas. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 The word “Cochlea” is now most frequently used to describe the inner ear.
 Mark 7:21-23
 Psalm 51:10
 1 John 3:20
 John 16:33
 2 Corinthians 13:5
 John 14:1