Fritz Kreisler the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn't able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector.
Kreisler made his way to the new owner's home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once more before it is consigned to silence?" he asked.
Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector's emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep that to myself," he exclaimed. "It's yours, Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it."
Christmas gives us world-changing good news. It would be criminal to keep it to ourselves. Like Kreisler, we are commissioned to take the “music” into the world, and share it will all who will listen. As we move on from Christmas, we think of the characters in the Christmas story, what they did with the message, and how their lives were different.
The Shepherds Returned: Glorifying & Praising God
(Read Luke 2:10-20)
They didn’t give up tending sheep. They didn’t leave all and go Bible college. They didn’t stop hanging with other shepherds, because they were uncouth and dirty. They continued as ordinary people with an extraordinary message! “God is with us! We’ve seen him with our own eyes!” God has a history of using ordinary people. King David, before he was a king, was a shepherd boy. He slew Goliath. Nehemiah was a Babylon slave. His job was to taste the king's food before the king did, so that if it was poisoned, Nehemiah would die, and not the king. "Disposable" was written into his job description. Jesus healed a demoniac. He asked to be able to follow him. Jesus sent him back to where he came from (Luke 8:38). The message was personal all the things they had heard and seen. The message was urgent, “So they HURRIED OFF and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” The message was for everyone, “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.’”
Albert McMakin is a name you may never have heard. Albert was a 24-year-old farmer who had come to faith in Christ. He was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people and took them to a meeting to hear about Jesus. There was a good-looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade –he was busy falling in and out of love with different girls and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity.
Eventually Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. When they arrived, Albert’s guest decided to go in and was “spellbound” and began to have thoughts he had never known before. He went back again and again until one night he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham led thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot all be like Billy Graham but we can all be like Albert McMakin.
Mary Pondered These Things in Her Heart
But Mary stored up these things in her memory and in her heart kept wondering what they meant (Barclay). The word “treasured” means: a watch; to guard, preserve, to keep closely together, to conserve (from ruin). The word “pondered” has the idea of an encounter, to meet with.
Throughout the life of Jesus, we hear this phrase twice in Luke’s Gospel: once after the Nativity, and again when Mary and Joseph find the child Jesus in the Temple after three days of anxious searching.
The things Mary pondered in her heart are not simply the moments of great joy: she ponders the pain that Simeon prophecies, and the first moment when her Son demonstrates that he must ultimately leave his family to fulfill his Father’s will.
In those hidden years of the life of Christ, absorbed in the daily tasks of caring for a family, Mary might have pondered what those extraordinary moments meant for her daily, seemingly unremarkable life.
There were other times that Mary may have treasured in her heart and pondered circumstances surrounding the life of her Son. They include when she faced public humiliation because she was pregnant without a husband and when she waited outside the temple to see Jesus only to have him declare that “whoever does the will of my Father” (Matthew 12:50) was his family.
As she watched him suffer on the Cross, did she remember those shepherds bowing down before her Son? Did she realize that he was only moments away from being at his Father’s throne? Were there other ponderings that brought her comfort?
In our own lives, the challenge is to think deeply about the meaning of Christmas, as we travel into the coming year. As we reflect on how it should change our lives.
In following the One born in a stable, should we think more clearly about our lifestyle? Should we live more simply?
In following the One who “tabernacled among us,” he “moved into the neighbourhood” (Message), should we be more intentional about connecting with our neighbours. Not living in a Christian bubble, with church folk. Maybe getting alongside the lonely and the broken?
We need deeply to ponder “these things” in our hearts.
In the frigid waters around Greenland are countless icebergs, some little and some gigantic. If you'd observe them carefully, you'd notice that sometimes the small ice floes move in one direction while their massive counterparts flow in another. The explanation is simple. Surface winds drive the little ones, whereas the huge masses of ice are carried along by deep ocean currents.
When we face trials and tragedies, it's helpful to see our lives as being subject to two forces—surface winds and ocean currents. The winds represent everything changeable, unpredictable, and distressing. But operating simultaneously with these gusts and gales is another force that's even more powerful.
As we ponder, deep in our hearts, like the icebergs, the deep currents of the Spirit will move us along the road of obedience.
The Wise Men Returned ‘Another Way’
(Read Matt. 2:11-12)
Something had changed. What would change for them? Wicked men schemed to influence people's lives by worldly power. God had come to that situation. They were not naïve. They did not assume that Herod would want to surrender to the new king. They realized they dealt with dark forces in a broken world. They chose a different way. Like David dealing with the pursuit of mad King Saul, after his very life. Like Daniel who was made chief of the wise men, chancellor of a national university, ruler of all the Hebrew captives, and, as governor of the province of Babylon, one of the chief rulers in both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. He dealt with the sometimes-darkness of political realities. He modelled “another way” as he followed his heart, shaped by his obedience to Yahweh. Living in the real world you may have to serve a boss who is difficult to work for. There may be compromises you have to make because we live in a fallen world. The challenge for us all, that comes at Christmas, with the example of the Wise Men, is that we model “another way,” and so follow the example of the godly men and women of history.
(Read Luke 2:29-31)
We are all called to finish the work God has set for us. You will not be called home until you have finished your work. Simeon would hear the wonderful words, “well dome, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Each of us, as we move on from Christmas this year, should have as our aim, pleasing God like the characters in the Christmas story. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Andy Scarcliffe is a retired Baptist minister from Scotland.