December 12: Loud Joy!
December 12, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
by Josh MoodyEach year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Luke 2:15-20:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.Shepherds, being practical men of action, decided immediately to go and discover whether in actual fact what they had been told was true. Luke does not tell us exactly how they found Mary and Joseph, but after what was apparently little difficulty (how many babies are being born in a cattle shed in any particular town at any particular moment?), they find things to be precisely as they have been told. Their response, Luke tells us, is after they have “seen him” they go out and “spread the word” concerning him, or more particularly “what had been told them about this child.” The message they spread is not just a “nativity” scene, but the extraordinary message that the angels had given them about this newborn King. As the shepherds – the ancient equivalent of cowboys, not the precious puny figures of some pageants – tell everyone they can find about Jesus, their word has a suitably dramatic effect. The people are “amazed,” astounded, their minds are blown at the idea that God is on the move, and his vehicle for intervention is a baby born in a manger. Mary’s response is quieter. Why? Why was she not raucously excited as well? Apart from the physical demands of birth which would have kept her from too much physical exertion immediately afterwards, Mary is “treasuring” these things. Like a typical mother in some ways, she is recording in her mind and heart every first moment of her own beautiful baby boy. But she is also “pondering” them, for she is far from a typical first-time mother, and she has much to chew over in her mind if she is to figure out what it will mean to bring up baby Jesus! Finally, the shepherds return, praising God. Everything was just as they had been told. The shepherds loud joy is a rebuke to us timorous souls who find it hard to quietly invite, even by email or text message, anyone else to come and hear about Christ at Christmas. If they, so new to everything about Christ, could be so excited, and so unselfconscious in “spreading the word,” could we not find one person to tell about Jesus this Christmas? One person to invite to hear the gospel preached this Christmas? But if the shepherds are a rebuke to our temerity, Mary is a rebuke to our superficiality. She thinks things over, she understands deeply, she does not let this first Christmas rush over her in a haste of activity and busyness. If Mary, who had much to do, and many problems to fix, could take the time to “ponder” these things in her heart, could we not find time this Christmas to read the Christmas story, become involved in church, take the time to reorient our souls around the real meaning of Christmas – the Christ-child born King!
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns Let men their songs employ While fields and floods Rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy Repeat the sounding joy Repeat, repeat the sounding joy
“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1719]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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