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by GLENN PEASE
12/08/2017 / Holidays
Based on Matt. 1:182:12
C.S. Lewis is one of the most read and most quoted Christian scholars of the 20th century, but he had to endure the burden of a very heavy secret in his life. He fell in love with a divorced woman and his church, the church of England, forbid marriage to one who was divorced. Joy Davidman, the woman he loved, was an American and she would soon have to leave England if she did not marry a British citizen. Lewis was in a terrible bind. He wanted to obey his church but he did not want to lose the woman he loved. So he slipped away with her and on April 23, 1956, they were secretly married in a civil service. This kept her in England, but what a pain it was to keep it a secret. They lived in separate houses and it was not long before the gossip was growing because of his frequent visits and late night stops at her house.
When Joy took a fall and ended up in the hospital she was told she had cancer. That is when they decided it was time to tell their secret to the world. When it was learned that she would never recover, the church leaders had compassion and allowed this 42 year old divorcee to be officially married in the hospital before she died.
Joseph and Mary had a problem like this as well. They had a heavy secret to bear and at first they had to bear it alone. Mary did not have the nerve to tell Joseph she was with child. How do you explain to man you love that you have been secretly visited by an angel who has told you that you will conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Messiah? No wonder she left town and headed for the hill country to stay with
Elizabeth. Gabriel had told Mary the secret of Elizabeth, that she too was with child in her old age. As soon as Mary stepped in the door and greeted Elizabeth, her secret was out and Elizabeth exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear." Here are two women who haven't said more than hello to each other and they both already know each others secret-they are going to have babies.
Three months later when Mary came back to Nazareth poor Joseph did not need an angel to tell him what Mary had been hiding. Her body language exposed her secret and poor Joseph was plunged into a secret civil war. How would you feel if your bride-to-be took off for three months and then came back pregnant? Joseph was caught in a terrible bind. Do I expose her to public disgrace and let her be the victim of the law, which could lead to he being stoned, or do I just divorce her and let her go quietly? He loved her even though he was deeply hurt and so he was leaning toward divorce. Then the angel came and let him know in a dream the secret that Mary was to give birth to the Messiah.
When he woke up he was a partner in the secret and he took Mary to be his wife and the bore the secret together. Nobody in Nazareth ever knew that Joseph was not the father of Jesus. The virgin birth was a secret that became a Christian doctrine only after Jesus died and rose again. Let's look for a few moments at
I. THE SECRET OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH.
This was not a secret Mary was urged to proclaim from the house tops. She never even told Joseph. The angel had to reveal this secret to him. This was their family secret and not a matter of public information. There is not a hint that anybody outside of their family ever dreamed Jesus was virgin born. The references to Joseph and Mary and Jesus make them seem like normal family with nothing unusual about them. Doctor Luke in Luke 2:27 says, "When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required...." Joseph is called the parent of Jesus. In verse 41 Luke refers to them both again as the parents of Jesus. In verse 33 he writes, 'The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him."
There is no doubt about the reality of the virgin birth. Joseph was not the literal father of Jesus, but the fact is, it was kept a secret. As far as the people were concerned, Jesus was the son of Joseph. The virgin birth was not known until after the death and resurrection of Christ. In His lifetime He was known only as the son of Joseph. John 1:45 says, "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." People who say they interpret everything in the Bible literally do not realize that would force them to reject the virgin birth.
Secrets are legitimate, for information known before it can be understood can do more harm than good. There is an appropriate time for truth to be revealed. Jesus said He had a lot of things to tell His disciples but they were yet not ready. A secret can simply be knowledge kept hidden until it can make sense to those who hear it. The virgin birth would have been a total hindrance to the plan of God had it been revealed in the early life of Jesus. He was to be a normal child and raised in a quiet obscure way; not as the Son of God drawing the attention of the world. The truth of the virgin birth had no value until after Jesus proved that He was indeed the Son of God by His resurrection. Then it made sense.
The very first reference we have to the Virgin Birth outside the New Testament goes back to around 125 A.D. Ignatius wrote a letter to the Ephesians and said, "Hidden from the princes of the world were the virginity of Mary and her child bearing." It was a part of the plan of God that the Virgin Birth be a secret to all but those who had to know. It was a secret until the time was right for all to know it.
God has His secrets and it is fascinating to see how secretly He worked in developing the whole Christmas story. We do the same thing by keeping our Christmas gifts a secret until Christmas day. We hide them and wrap them to assure they will stay a secret until the time is right. Secrecy is the name of the game. If you know what you are getting what is the point of wrapping it up? It is the secrecy and the mystery that make you anticipate. It drives children crazy of course and they shake the packages trying to hear some tell-tale sound that will reveal the nature of the gift. There is wonder and excitement all because there are secrets. This is certainly a legitimate form of fun for God plays this game Himself. Look for example at
II. THE SECRET OF THE STAR.
All through history there have been spectacular events in the heavens that grab men's attention and scare the wits out of them. In 1833 and again in 1866, as many as two hundred thousand meteors could be seen flashing across the sky. People panicked and thought it was the end of the world. But God did not start a panic with the Star of Bethlehem. It was so secret that only the Magi in a land far away could see it. The people in Israel saw nothing and Herod and his scholars knew nothing of it until the wise men told them of its appearance. God could have pulled off a supernova that would have burned the eyeballs of every being in the land, but he chose to go the way of the secret star. It may have been spectacular to those few sky watchers but for all others it was hidden.
God did not even need the star, for He later warned these wise men by means of a dream. He could have gotten them to the Christ child by means of a dream also. But God wanted the star in the story of His Son's birth because it was an important symbol for the fulfilling of prophesy. Numbers 24:17 says, "A star will come out of Jacob." But the secret of the star is also based on the fact that the more precious the gift the greater the secrecy connected with it. A precious gift is meant to be a surprise and so it is kept secret. I remember keeping the wedding ring I gave to Lavonne, an other items of jewelry also. But I don't ever remember hiding the fact that I picked her up a can a spam or a box of toothpicks. A secret has to do with something of great value.
It may be unknown but it is no secret that I got my mail yesterday. It would be a secret if I got a fortune in the mail that my uncle left me in his estate. There is an endless number of facts about life that are unknown, but they are not secrets until they become events of value. Secrets are about what is weighty in life-things that can greatly hurt or help. The secret Star of Bethlehem is a symbol that heaven is involved in the birth of this Christmas baby as it has never been involved before. This is the only baby in history, so precious, that God created a special star to announce His birth. Next look at
III. THE SECRET OF THE SHEPHERDS.
They had no secret very long, for as soon as they learned of the secret birth of the Messiah, they ran to be eye-witnesses of the child in a manger. They were recipients of the secret but they did not keep it a secret. They immediately began to spread the news. Luke 2:17-18 says, "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."
We have no idea how many people were told, but a lot of people got in on this secret. Why didn't the angels just appear over Bethlehem and let everybody in on it at once, instead of appearing to small group of shepherds secretly? We don't know all of the reasons for why God works secretly with small groups, we just know that He does. Only a small group saw the star and not thousands of people. Only a few shepherds saw the angels and not the masses. The Christmas secret was revealed slowly, beginning with small groups and then spreading to larger groups. This is no accident, but a clear method by which God works in the world and in history. Jesus chose a small group of men to be His disciples. He taught them the secrets of the Kingdom of God. His goal was then to get these secrets into all the world by means of this small group. Christianity operates much like science. The great ideas and discoveries are made by one or two, or a very small group. They then reveal the secrets to the world. So Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 4:11, "The secret of the Kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables."
Jesus starts with the inner circle and reveals the secrets of the Kingdom. Then they are commanded to go into all the world and make these secrets known. This method of God is itself one of God's secrets. His plan is to use men to spread His secret. He could have used the star or the angels to tell the whole world. All kinds of amazing things can be conceived that God might have done. But He did not do them, but chose instead, not to use miracles, but to use men to achieve His purpose. The spectacular events of the star and the angels were for the few only-the masses were reached by means of the commonplace method of word of mouth.
The great commission is the command to spread the secret to all the world. Secret spreading is the ministry of every member of the church. I've Got A Secret, was once a popular T.V. program. People with very strange jobs would try to stump a panel as to their mysterious secret. I remember one program in which the secret of the twelve people there was, they were named after every month of the year. Some months sounded just fine such as, Fanny Mae and Sally April or Bill June. But John October, Ed December and Fred February sounded a little strange. Their names no doubt got them into a lot of conversations.
As Christians, we take on the name of the one who was born at Christmas. Bearing this name carries with it the responsibility to get into conversation about the name of Christ. This name is not only the heart of Christmas, but of all that Christianity stands for. The secret of Christmas is still a secret to masses of people and that is not God's plan. He wants the secret spread so everyone knows how to become a child a God through faith in Christ-His Christmas Gift. If we are not in some way spreading the secret of Christmas we are not fulfilling God's plan.
Two men rode into New York City on the same morning train for twenty years. They became close and intimate friends. One day the one man missed the other, He missed him the next day, and on enquiry learned that his friend had suddenly passed away. The man attended his friend's funeral, and discovered to his utter amazement that all through those twenty years his friend had been an officer in a Protestant Church. The survivor said: "I cannot understand it; through all the fellowship of those years he never once mentioned the name of his Master, nor did he once make any allusion to personal religion, or show the slightest interest in my religious standing. If he had only spoken a word on these matters he would have found me anxious to be led to his faith ! Think of it! Twenty years of silence on the vital themes of religion. He was keeping that a secret which God intended for him to share.
God does not expect you to change the world at Christmas. He didn't even do that. He just let a few people in on the wondrous secret and let it spread. So all you have to do is one on one or small group sharing and let the secret spread. It was not what was in the headlines that most mattered that first Christmas, but what was done in secret. This is still true today. Life changing events are going on everywhere as individuals hear about Jesus and trust Him as their Savior. They quietly enter into the secret of Christmas as they receive God's Gift.
There are some secrets that have to be told or the end result is tragedy. Anne Davis tells of her first experience of spending the night with her little girl friend. She was amazed when her friends mother came in and tucked her into bed, kissed her and told her good night. In Anne's family this was never done. Overt affection was just not shown. But seeing it made he hunger for it. So the next night at home she put her cheek up to her mother at bedtime, but nothing happened. Her mother just went through the usual ritual of laying out clean clothes for school the next day. Anne cried herself to sleep that night and concluded her mother did not love her as her friends mother loved.
That disappointment sank deep into her and festered for years. It was only as an adult that she finally confronted her mother and asked why she had not shown more physical affection. The mother's eyes were filled with tears as she said, "my mother died when I was five and there was never anyone to tuck me in and say good night. There was no one to wash out my clothes and often I had to go to school with a dirty dress. I made up my mind, then and there, that if I ever had children of my own, they would always have clean clothes every morning. This is the way I tried to show my affection and love." Both of them were crying and Anne said to her mother, "You never told me that. It always use to irritate me that you were so fussy about my clothes. I wanted you to spend your time doing something else." Here was a tragedy because of secrets never told..
The world is filled with suffering because of secrets that are unrevealed. There are so many different love styles. People show love in so many different ways and the ones they love do not feel their love because they do not understand what love means to them. Like ships passing in the night they miss each other because of unshared secrets. People have strange ways of saying I love you based on their unique background and personality. We need to know their secret to feel their love. Lets face it, the only reason the Christmas story does not seem strange to us is because we know the secret of what God was doing. But try to imagine what it seems like to one who does not.
The world is a mess and lost in darkness and what does God do?-He sends the world a baby. This is not exactly a logical gift to make anybody in a mess feel more secure. Nobody was saying what we really need in this world is another baby. It was not good news that another baby was born. You have to be in on the secret before it is good news. It is no secret what God can do But it is often a mystery why. Why would He begin anew With a little baby's cry? He was the Lord before all time, Now in a secret guise he lays. No longer the Lord in His prime, Yet, the angels sing His praise. What wondrous things God will do To show the world His grace. Revealing that His love is true, Through the smiling Christ-child's face. God opened up the secret of His eternal plan, When He sent His only Son to be a real man. It's now an open secret that He's the only way, And that is why we celebrate this joyous Christmas day! That day God came in secret, known only to a few, But now the secrets out-God loves the whole world too. It is no longer a secret what God can do, But the spreading of this secret is still up to me and you.
May God help us to be sharers of the Christmas Secrets.
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