Christmas Eve – 2020 LSB #’s 332, 702, 374
Text – Matthew 13:23
As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word & understands it. He indeed bears fruit & yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, & in another thirty.
PRAYING, COME, LORD JESUS TO HIM WHO HAS COME
TO CREATE FAITH
“…Mary kept all of these things & pondered them in her heart.” Let’s begin by pondering that line from Luke’s Christmas narrative. Often we have heard it read. What does it mean that Mary kept all of these things, that she pondered them in her heart?
It describes Mary right after the amazing report regarding her newborn child. Shepherds had come to tell what they had seen & heard. They said that an angel had appeared to them & announced, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
The angel told them where to find Him & after that the entire sky was filled with angels singing praises to God at this glorious occasion. So, the shepherds went to look. When they found Him & gave their report to Mary, Luke wrote, “[She] kept all of these things & pondered them in her heart.” Mary was thinking deeply about the words announced by the angels.
This wasn’t the 1st time either that Mary had something amazing to ponder regarding her special child. When His birth was foretold, also by an angel, he told her some amazing things, like, “You [Virgin Mary] will be with child & give birth to a son, & you are to give Him the name Jesus.” The angel continued, “He will be great & be the Son of the Most High!”
As Mary raised questions about how this could be, especially since she hadn’t been with a man, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, & the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God!” The angel then concluded, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NASB) That was something to ponder! The last line was a clincher to this woman of faith. Since it is true that nothing will be impossible with God, she believed & replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” We hear in those words that the Holy Spirit was working in Mary’s heart & soul.
In the other places where Mary is described, you get a similar sense that she is pondering to understand & believe in the word. In the temple at Jesus’ circumcision & naming, when more amazing things were said by Simeon, Luke wrote, “The child’s father & mother marveled at what was said about Him.” (Luke 2:33)
When Jesus was twelve & she found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers of God’s word, & He called that place His Father’s house, & said He must be about His Father’s business, Luke wrote that she once again treasured these things in her heart.
Years later, in the account of His first miracle recorded by John, at the wedding in Cana, Mary again demonstrates faith in Jesus. When the wine runs out, she approaches Him trusting that He can fix the problem. She says to those present, “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary’s pondering on God’s word showed itself in a life of faith.
In the sermon series this Advent, we’ve been pondering how Jesus overcame the enemies of His word – the devil, our sinful hearts, the sinful world. We’ve considered how He came & continues coming to save us. We’ve been looking at the parable of the Sower as it illustrates these opponents that Jesus defeated.
There are birds symbolizing the devil as they gobble up the seed that is the word of God. There’s the rocky soil symbolizing the shallow, sinful hearts of mankind which do not let God’s word penetrate, so their spiritual life withers & dies. And there are the weeds representing the cares of the world & the deceitfulness of riches that choke the life out of faith in God’s word.
Thankfully, there is a 4th soil described in the parable: “Other seed fell on good soil &
produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Then Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Later He explained to His disciples:
“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word & understands it. He indeed bears fruit & it yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, & in another thirty.” From our perspective today, Mary is good soil. As Mary pondered what was said, she received the word of God. It was planted in her heart through faith in that word.
Like Jesus explained, hers are the ears & the heart which are hearing & seeking to understand the word of the God spoken to her. But how did Mary come to have a heart of faith, a heart that received, pondered & believed the saving word of the Lord? How is she an example of the 4th soil type that produced abundant fruit?
Let’s first say what is not the case. It is not because Mary was holy in herself. Nowhere in the Word of God is she described as sinless, as perfect, or as a saint who earned salvation by her good deeds. There is no evidence of that in the Biblical description of Mary.
What is the case, Luke writes, is that the Lord is with her. She has been given His favor. In the life of Mary, we see how good soil is made, it is through the work of the God, work that led her to ponder & treasure God’s word. This is the realm of the Holy Spirit for us, as well. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will come to us through His word & create faith in our hearts.
We confess this in the catechism explanation of the 3rd article about the Holy Spirit: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe... But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified & kept me in the true faith.”
All of us are that good soil, as well, as we respond in faith to the promises of God’s word. Yahweh has given us His favor. We see that in what Jesus came to do. In John 3:16 we hear, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” You & I are those whom He loves. And now, with His word, He sends His Holy Spirit to teach us to trust in His promise to save & deliver us. How might this happen in daily life? What’s needed is a situation like that described in the parable of the Sower where the farmer generously sows his seed wherever he can.
Such abundant spreading of God’s word can be seen in what happens when we read & daily devote time to God’s word. In the course of day to day life, we experience real struggles. As we do, the Holy Spirit is also working on our hearts to convict us so that we realize the need for God’s mercy.
Then, as we hear God’s word, the Holy Spirit helps us understand why & how the word of Christ’s death & resurrection is so important for us. He builds us up in to trust in God’s care, just as He did with Mary.
During this sermon series, I’ve been stressing daily devotions as important to receive & remain faithful to God’s word. I’ve described a scenario where a family sits down to spend time in Holy Scripture & in prayer. Imagine how this plays out over time when it is a daily practice.
For example, the family learns before Christmas that dad has lost his job. This would be devastating by itself, but learning this when things are supposed to be so happy, can be especially difficult.
Yet, if the family has the holy habit of daily reading God’s word & taking their anxious cares & needs to Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit will use the word of Christ to give comfort & hope in a deep & meaningful way.
The troubles of this life, such as the pandemic of 2020, break up the hard hearts of mankind & create fertile ground in which to plant the word of God. However, without the generous sowing of God’s word in daily prayer, the hope of the Christ child would not be realized in any deep & enduring way. But with daily devotions, when the family goes to Christmas services, the comfort of Christ’s real presence in the Lord’s Supper gives true Christmas joy that sustains them amidst the fleeting hopes of the world. Also, in this way, the devil is prevented from using life’s disappointments to snatch away the word of Christ.
So this Christmas, let’s follow Mary’s lead as we hear the announcement of the good news of great joy that will be to all people. Let’s rejoice with the angels at the birth of our Savior. Let’s ponder this daily in our hearts, seeking to understand God’s word & how it addresses all of life while promising a hope that surpasses all human understanding. Amen.
Solo “Mary Did You Know?”
Pastor Dean R. Poellet