The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them.
1 John 3:3), and made her life a life of reverence and prayer. It was good for her to think much of the purpose God was about to accomplish through her instrumentality; she would be the better fitted for that holy motherhood by which she was to be so highly honored, and by which she was to render so inestimable a service to her nation and her race. The fact that she did keep and dwell upon these solemn and sacred mysteries may remind us of -
I. THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST WORTH KEEPING. These are not moneys that may be kept in the bank, nor jewels that may be treasured in the cabinet, nor parchments that may be guarded in the strong box; they are none other than Divine thoughts which we can hold in our hearts. And of these there are Divine revelations. They may be of his holy purpose, such as Mary's heart held; or they may be of his own character or disposition toward us his children, such as we may learn and hold; or they may be revelations of our own true selves, of our character and our necessities and our possibilities; or they may be of the way by which we can approach and resemble God. There are also Divine invitations - to return from our estrangement, to draw near to his throne, to accept his mercy, to walk by his side, to sit down at his table. There are Divine exhortations to duty, to service, to self-sacrifice. And there are Divine promises, of provision and protection and inspiration here, of blessedness and enlargement hereafter.
II. THAT WHICH CONSTITUTES THEIR SUPREME VALUE.
1. They pertain to God himself, and therefore connect us with the Highest.
2. They affect us, ourselves - our character, our inner life, our essential being.
3. They bring us into harmony with all things; for he that is right with God and true to himself is adjusted to all other beings, and is ready for all other things.
4. They render us fitted for life anywhere and in the distant future; so that death will be a mere incident in our history, not concluding our career, but only opening the gate into other and brighter spheres.
III. THE DANGER WE ARE IN OF LOSING THEM. There is a plausible philosophical theory that a thought once received into the mind cannot ever be wholly lost; once there it remains there, though it may be in the far background, unperceived, unemployed. But, as a matter of practical life, we know too well, both from testimony and experience, that the best and highest thoughts may escape our view; they may be only too easily lost sight of and disregarded. Neglect, or an engrossing interest in lower or in more exciting subjects, will make them invisible, ineffective, useless. It is a most pitiable thing that in every generation there are multitudes of souls that once welcomed and cherished the loftiest conceptions and the noblest aspirations, to whom these thoughts and hopes are now nothing whatsoever; they are gone from their mind; they have not been wisely "kept," but foolishly and culpably lost. Therefore -
IV. THE WISDOM OF A REVERENT MEDITATION. We do ourselves the truest service when, by pondering on them, we keep sound and whole within our hearts the great thoughts of God. The power of continuous meditation is one of the faculties of our human nature; but the rush and strain of modern life constitute a powerful temptation to let this faculty rust in disuse. But as we love ourselves truly and wisely we shall resist and overcome the temptation. All souls that would do their sacred duty to themselves must think well and much on the things they know. If they would truly and thoroughly understand that of which they speak, if they wish Divine truth to have its own purifying and transforming power over them, if they aspire to build up a strong and influential character, if they wish to be "no longer children," but men in Christ Jesus, they must ponder in their hearts the doctrines they count in their creed, the language they take into their lips. It is the truth we dwell upon that we live upon. - C.
And the shepherds returned.
(Dr. Raleigh.)This is how all true-minded, simple-hearted inquirers have returned from their Christian investigations. It is questionable whether any man has ever closed the Bible in a mood of dissatisfaction who opened it with reverent determination to know how far it was a testimony from heaven. Christian investigation is not finished until it has brought into the heart a joy altogether unprecedented. The mere letter never brings gladness. Critics and disputants have found little in the Bible but a great waste of words; but penitent and earnest inquirers have returned from its examination with hearts overflowing with a new and imperishable joy.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. WE WILL CONSIDER THE MATTERS FOR WHICH THEY GLORIFIED AND PRAISED GOD. These were the things, which they had heard and seen.
1. They glorified God that the promised Saviour was now born. They seem to have been some of those pious people who looked for redemption in Israel.
2. They rejoiced that this Saviour was born for them. The angel says, "Unto you is born this day a Saviour." Conscious of their impotence and unworthiness, they felt their need of a Saviour, and esteemed it a matter of great joy that He was come to bring salvation to them. They doubtless admired the distinguishing grace of God in visiting them first of all with the glorious tidings.
3. The shepherds rejoiced that the Saviour was horn for others, as well as themselves. "I bring you good tidings," says the angel, "which shall be to all people."
4. The shepherds glorified God for what they had seen, as well as what they had heard.
II. CONSIDER THE MANNER IN WHICH THEY GLORIFIED HIM.
1. They glorified God by faith in the Saviour, whom He had sent. They believed the heavenly message. By faith in the Redeemer we give glory to God.
2. They glorified God by a ready obedience. Being informed by a heavenly messenger where the Saviour lay, they came to Him with haste. They made no delay, but immediately obeyed the Divine intimation. Faith operates in a way of cheerful obedience.
3. They glorified God by confessing and spreading the Saviour's name. "When they had seen Him, they made known abroad what had been told them concerning the Child." They were not ashamed to own Him as the Messiah, even in His infant state. You see that true faith will prompt you to honour Christ before men.
4. They glorified God by an attendance on the means of faith. The angel who announced the Saviour's birth gave them a token by which they might know Him. "This shall be a sign to you. Ye shall find the babe wrapt in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And they came with haste, and found as he had told them." God gave them a particular sign for the confirmation of their faith; and He has appointed standing means to strengthen and enliven ours. Jesus Christ is exhibited to us in His Word, in His sanctuary, and at His table. Here we are to seek Him, and converse with Him, that we may increase our faith and warm our love.
5. They glorified God with the voice of praise.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
I. THE CHRISTIAN CHANGE OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY IS A FACT. The influx through Christ of a new power into the life of humanity is a known fact of experience, as certain as the battle of Gettysburg, or the dawn of day. This fact of the new power in the world, through the birth of Christ, belongs to a series of facts. The religion of the Bible presents a continued succession, and reveals an exalted order of facts. Christianity is a positive religion of historical facts from Moses to Christ, from Christ to the last Church organized and the last communion table spread.
II. THE NATURE AND REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS FACT.
1. In Christianity we breathe a different air. Midway down the Simplon Pass the traveller pauses to read upon a stone the single word "Italia." At this point he passes a boundary live, and every step makes plainer how great has been the change from Switzerland to Italy. The air becomes warm and fragrant, and vines line the wayside, and below, embosomed in verdure, Lake Maggiore expands before him. As that traveller rests at evening-time, he recognizes that the entrance into a new world was marked by the word "Italia" upon the stone on the pass. Humanity has crossed a boundary line: up to Bethlehem, bleak and cold — down from Bethlehem, another and a happier time.
2. This new transforming power was, to the disciples, Jesus Himself. He made all things new to them.
3. Jesus has been to the world a new revelation of God. God is essentially and eternally Christlike.
4. Jesus is also a new revelation of man. Man is in Christ another man. You pass a man in the streets, and you used to feel that you did not want to know or help such a poor creature — he lived below your world, and his name was not found in your book of life. Now it is different, for you have been baptized into the name of Christ, in whom our whole common humanity exists, redeemed and capable of a great salvation. CONCLUSION: We close by asking ourselves, "Am I living, by faith in the Son of God, in this changed world?" Is it, in the history of my soul, the day before, or the better day after, Christmas.
(Newman Smyth, D. D.)
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