Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Saturday December 24th 2016 - / Luke 2:1-20 / How's Your Heart This Christmas?
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 24th 2016: Christmas Eve, / Luke 2:1-20 “How's Your Heart This Christmas”
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
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.
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
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 an amusement park 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.
We talk about 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.’
When you think of Christmas would you say that Christmas is in the heart? As sinful people immersed in a commercialized world of schlocky advertisements and sentimental TV shows and movies it might seem that the idea that ‘Christmas is in the Heart’ boils down to “that warm and fuzzy feeling” people get deep down ‘in the bottom of their heart of hearts,’ the feeling that the World says tells them that what they are feeling is true and that just feeling it is good enough. Well that is not actually what being a Christian is all about.
The Virgin 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. Saint Luke, who wrote, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of Luke, where we get our Gospel reading from tonight, was a very good historian. But Saint 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, when you push the ignition button, without knowing every detail of the workings of the engine – without having read the owner's manual or the mechanical schematics: So too can faith 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. We live in a world where your brothers and sisters in Christ in places like North Korea and in areas controlled by ISIS go to their martyrdoms and deaths with this shared Christian faith beating in their hearts. Saint Luke was determined to provide a Gospel account that was set on a solid historical footing for people like these, and for people like you, for all people.
So when the text from Saint Luke's Gospel says: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This text, suggests very strongly that the Virgin 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? With the Gospel of Saint Luke available to you have you committed it to memory? If a complete stranger, a Muslim, an Atheist, a Hindu let’s say, 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?
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: Are you celebrating Christmas for the first time without someone you love there at the table or has it been years and it still feels like the first time without them? Is having a good Christmas dependant on feeling the Christmas spirit?
If having a good Christmas has nothing to do with fuzzy feelings or memorizing the Christmas story perfectly or having Christmas Spirit what is it about anyway?
Apart from Christ Jesus, 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. Yet remember, 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, 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 – our little Baby King so precious and sweet, 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 you. Saint Paul once asked the Corinthians, He asked, “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Christ Jesus is in you.” This you can trust in your baptism. 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, that He is 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 love Him in return in the same pure way. 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.” And as people say "Home is where the heart is," your true home, your eternal life, is wrapped up in Christ who makes His home with you. Jesus is with you always – May He always Bless you hearts, Merry Christmas. Amen.
Let us pray: 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 Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 1John 3:20
 John 16:33
 2 Corinthians 13:5
 John 14:1