Posted by: Billy Marsh | December 23, 2008

Marveled, Astonished, and Amazed: Responding to Advent

The three-fold title to this series of posts is not meant to be an exhaustive list of words used in the Gospels denoting exaggerated and animated reactions to the words and work of Jesus Christ. I chose to highlight these three because of how much more they appeared to be used by Mark in his Gospel account, which has been the one where I have parked my exposition of various texts relating to this subject. However, for the sake of adding a “Christmas” entry to this series, I’ve extended my reach to the Gospel of Luke, where we will find other terms employed such as “wondered,” “pondered,” and “fear/afraid.”  As I prepared to submit my final post in this series, I found myself wanting to share some of the same insights concerning the birth of Christ, but unable to do so since the Gospel of Mark does not include that event as part of his narrative. At Redeemer, Pastor Tim Presson has been preaching this month through the birth story as found in Luke’s Gospel, so much of that material was fresh on my mind, so naturally, it was an obvious decision to spend some time in the Gospel of Luke in order to sift out relevant material to contribute to this particular study.

Everything about the Christmas season is burdened by familiarity. For adults (or at least the ones who progress in maturity) it becomes harder and harder to welcome the holiday season with the same enthusiastic ambition year in and year out since it was only 10 months ago that we packed up all the decorations, put away the Christmas music, and emptied our wallets. The same is true for the birth story of baby Jesus. We hear it in songs, see it on cliché holiday cards, listen to it in usually a 4/5 week sermon series, teach it in Sunday school lessons, watch it in Christmas movies, and reinforce it in the home-life as an attempt to develop Christ-centered traditions with the family. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not condemning any of these activities, but in all honesty, it grows more difficult every year to “be still” and wonder at the mystery of the Incarnation and at the many scenes and events that took place in the biblical narratives around the birth of the Son of God and Son of Man. Althougth what I’m promoting may at this point in the holiday season be nothing more than white noise, it is still the Scripture’s intention for us to join in with the other characters in the birth story and “wonder,” “ponder,” “treasure,” and “be filled with fear” as we behold the coming of God to earth in the flesh.

Let’s briefly look at four instances in the Gospel of Luke found in chapters 1 & 2 where we can participate with the other people in the narrative in marveling at the glory of God in Christ, even as a newborn baby and a young child.

First, let us not pass over too quickly the reaction of baby John the Baptist in the womb. It is amazing enough that as a baby, John responded to the presence of Jesus and his mother, Mary, but how much more so that he did so as an unborn child? The text says that baby John “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing the greeting of Mary. The one whose entire ministry consisted of preparing the way for and pointing to the Messiah began as early as an unborn child as he rejoiced at the coming of Jesus, the long-awaited Savior and Incarnate God. Though none of our staple words are present in this scene, all of the events allude to an overwhelming sense of great wonder and amazement in the lives of Mary, Elizabeth, and John. After receiving Elizabeth’s blessing while being filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary was compelled to recite what is known as “The Magnificat” (Lk 1:46-55) which was a glorious song of worship, saturated with the Scriptures and praising God for the fulfillment of his Word to his people.

Click here to listen to my pastor, Tim Presson, deliver one of the most powerful Christmas sermons I’ve ever heard, and possibly, the only message that I’ve ever heard preached on “The Magnificat” as well.

Since I’ve already spent plenty of time in this post introducing my topic and pointing out the first instance in Luke’s Gospel, I’ll postpone the other three to a later entry and will hopefully get it to you before Dec. 25th!

Will you join in with me in meditating on the birth of Christ and standing in constant amazement and wonder at the divine identity of our great Savior and King, Jesus Christ the Lord?

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