Christmas: Not Everyone Gets It! (Luke 1:39-56)Pastor Jon Truax, December 17, 2017
Part of the Christmas series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
Christmas: Not Everyone Gets It!
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
I asked my wife what she would like for Christmas.
She said, “Nothing would make me happier than jewelry.”
Wanting her to be happy, I’m getting her nothing.
You may have heard the old saying, “He who laughs last, laughs best!” You may have also heard its derivative, “He who laughs last, didn’t get the joke!”
There is a modern fear in our culture. It is the fear of not getting it, not getting the joke, being clueless. Pastor Josh’s favorite show, The Office, is all about the clueless boss of Dunder Mifflin’s Scanton branch who just doesn’t get it. None of us want to be the guy that doesn’t get it.
There’s also FOMO out there now. Have you heard of this one? FOMO is the “fear of missing out.” The technical definition of FOMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social anxiety is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing." FOMO is why some people seem glued to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. They don’t want to miss out on what’s happening. They don’t want to be the one who doesn’t “get it.”
In a way, FOMO reminds me of the old joke about the definition of a Puritan. A Puritan is one with "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
How do I know about FOMO? By trying to keep up with the culture! Not keeping up with the Kardashians, but keeping up with the culture, which is kind of the same thing, actually. I know about FOMO because I have a little touch of FOMO – I want to know what’s going on! Pastors are clueless enough as it is. I don’t want to miss out! I don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t get it. I want to “get it.”
But it can be a full-time job trying to keep up with everything in our world! If you don’t want to miss out or get left behind, if you want to be “woke”, you have to know the latest celebrity to be outed as a pervert, how Saturday Night Live subsequently joked about it, and what other celebrities tweeted about it. You have to know the most recent Star Wars movie – just saw it last night, no spoilers! - the current Netflix binge-watching craze, the hottest toys of the season, this morning’s tweet by our President, the latest viral video, what bitcoin is worth, and CNN’s ongoing breathless 24/7 Russian collusion investigation.
You also have to keep up on the state of the world - what’s going on with North Korea’s nuclear program, what’s happening with Jerusalem being recognized by the United States as the capital of Israel, and how England’s Brexit from the European Union is going. You have to stay on top of famous court cases working their way through the system, the latest technological developments, and ground-breaking advances in scientific thought and theory. There’s so much to stay on top of! Sometimes I am very glad to work in the area of Bible and religion because it’s not so difficult to keep up with new frontiers there!
You’re never going to know everything about everything. You’re not going to “get everything” about everything. You can’t have it all. But I want to make sure that everyone in the sphere of influence of our church does “get it” about Christmas - because not everyone does.
I remember back when I was a kid that I would call ALL my friends - both of them - the day after Christmas and ask, “What did you get for Christmas?” I wrote a little about this in my book. That was the question of the day: “What did you get? What did you get?” But the more appropriate question might be to ask, “Did you get Christmas?”
Many don’t. They think Christmas has something to do with celebrating the change of seasons, or observing the winter solstice like it’s a pagan holiday, or a commentary on the beauty of snow. Others focus on the commercialism and the gifts of the season, even the traditional connections with family and friends at this time of year. All those things, though many are wonderful, are kind of beside the real point of Christmas. You may get all of that - and still not get Christmas.
To “get Christmas” you need to “get Jesus”. You need to get the reason that He came, the heart of His message of love, grace and forgiveness, the identity He carries as the Son of God. If you don’t get Jesus, you’re not going to get Christmas, and not everyone gets Jesus.
The Pharisees didn’t “get” Jesus. As His spiritual opponents, they thought He was a child of the devil rather than the Son of God. They credited the miracles He performed by the Holy Spirit to Satan and considered them the work of Beelzebub. They refused to see anything to celebrate in Jesus, a friend of sinners rather than pal of the religious self-righteous. They weren’t happy that Jesus was born on Christmas; in fact, the Pharisees were the ones who wanted Him dead on Good Friday!
The crowds weren’t much better. They didn’t really “get” Jesus, either. The crowds were great for flocking around Jesus whenever He did what they wanted, like healing diseases, raising the dead, or feeding 5000 of them from a few loaves and fish. They didn’t really care what He wanted – they wanted to make Him a king by force, and if He wasn’t interested in throwing the hated Romans out of their land, they weren’t interested in following Him. The fickle crowds didn’t get Jesus.
Sadly, even Jesus’ disciples didn’t “get” Him. They assumed He would be their meal ticket to their own positions of power and greatness. They heard Him talk about the Kingdom of God and imagined that they would be given thrones of authority right alongside their Master. When it came time to lay down His life for the sins of the world, the disciples betrayed, denied, abandoned, and tried to talk Him out of it.
How can we avoid making these mistakes? How can we truly “get” Christmas? Everything we need to know is right here, in God’s word, the Bible. Let’s take a closer look at what Jan read for us to see that “getting Christmas” isn’t about getting at all but what God gave the world in Christ. It’s a section of scripture called “The Magnificat.”
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
What God did in the specific case of Mary is patterned after how He looks after the humble and contrite in heart. It’s not coincidental that Mary’s utterances here sound much like a Psalm. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 138:6 says, “Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar.”
Mary is appropriating these characteristics of God and the words of the Psalms to her own situation. In sending Jesus into the world, God didn’t choose the high and mighty, the Caesars and Herods, the Consuls and Governors. He chose a young woman, lifted her out of obscurity and anonymity, and gave her a mission for which she would be forever renowned – the mother of God’s Son. What God did on Christmas, GOD did. The Mighty One has done great things for us. Holy is His name. Even though we are not Mary, the words are true for us, too.
Mary went on, “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
Not only is God’s loving gaze and attention focused on the meek and humble, Mary’s song reveals He is also at work to exalt them and bring down the strong and proud. How much does this cut against the grain of the world? We would expect God to come for the winners, to champion the mighty, to bless those who are already blessed. But Mary shows that God bestows His mercy upon those who fear Him and revere His name. God is strong enough in His own power; He doesn’t need the strong of the earth to add anything to Him. God’s sovereignty frees Him to turn things upside-down, to bring down the powerful and lift up the powerless, to feed the hungry and starve the satisfied. In a fat, sassy nation like America, these are not comforting verses. Are we more like the wealthy and powerful, or the hungry and hopeless? We should give heed to where God’s love and grace is moving.
Finally, Mary concluded, “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
In these verses, God is revealed as the ultimate Promise Keeper at Christmas time. The sending of Jesus into the world makes good on the scores of prophecies that God issued through the ages that He would do something amazing through His people Israel. Christ represents the fulfillment of all those promises. Mary realizes that her miraculous pregnancy means that now is the time for the Messiah to be born into the world and usher in the dawn of a new age grace and mercy for Israel and extending even beyond Israel to be a blessing to the Gentiles, too.
Lest any of us be tempted to grow smug as a Christian about “getting Jesus” and “getting Christmas,” let us remember the lesson of Israel who had the opportunity to get it, but didn’t. Let us also be aware that even those of us who do “get it” don’t always get it consistently or constantly or all the time. We may take our eye off the ball. We may let the other stuff of Christmas, and the other stuff of life, get in God’s way. We may forget the purpose behind all the festivities.
If you do “get Christmas”, here’s what you should do: Help others to get it, too!
We enlarge the joy of Christmas by sharing it with others, and we share the joy of Christmas by the way we talk about it and witness about it. Witnessing isn’t always walking someone down the Romans Road or explaining the Four Spiritual Laws to them or handing out a gospel tract. Sometimes witnessing is just testifying by our words and actions about the difference that Jesus Christ has made in our lives. It’s making our relationship with God in Jesus Christ clear through our priorities. If we truly do that, people will see our invisible faith by the words we use, the choices we make, how we spend our time and money, the way we treat others, and the purposes we dedicate our lives to.
And when you don’t get caught up in all the gifts, all the trappings, all the commercialization, and all the packaging of Christmas, that’s a clue to others that you have your eye on the ball, that you “get it!” And when you live a transformed, redeemed life in Jesus Christ, that is the best way at all to help others want to “get it”, “get Him,” too!
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39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (KJV)