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Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 25: Mary Treasured and Pondered

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. - Luke 2:18-19, ESV

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. - Luke 2:51-52
Mary Treasured and Pondered:
The Wisdom of Biblical Remembrance and Meditation

And so Christmas Day has come once again, as it has every year for century upon century. Every year, Christmas presents us with another opportunity to consider the person of Jesus – who He was, who He is and what difference He makes in our lives.  As we shop in the local mall, we hear the musical question, “What Child is This?” As we drive down the road listening to secular radio stations playing all Christmas music all the time, we hear “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the invitation, “O Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

As much as the world still seems intent on kicking Jesus out of His own birthday party, This is still the best time of year for many of us to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus, just as Mary did, and to consider, “Who is this child?”

Luke tells us that in the midst of that first Christmas night, Mary, having just given birth to her first child in a stable, welcomed visiting shepherds – grubby, low-life, disreputable shepherds – who were strangers to her and who brought her a story of the most fantastic tale.  When they tell their story of the visiting angels and their message, Mary listens and treasures up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  

In fact, Luke tells us twice in Chapter 2 that Mary “treasured these things in her heart.”  It is an interesting expression, and it means that Mary kept, preserved, treasured and safe-guarded the things she had seen and heard.  She kept these mysteries so well that she was likely one of Luke’s primary sources - perhaps the primary source - for the first two chapters of his Gospel.

Clearly, Mary valued what was happening.  She took her role in God’s plan of redemption very seriously and kept the sayings of God very closely guarded in her heart.  She was not just casually and callously “going through the motions” because she had to.

Mary had much to ponder, of course:

1. Less than a year ago, she had been preparing to get married, the single most important event in the life of a Jewish girl in the first century, when suddenly Gabriel came and stood before her, scaring her out of her mind.  Gabriel addressed her as " highly-favored one" and told her that she was going to have a baby boy, who will be God’s own Son. This baby would be the long-awaited Messiah, who will rule over God’s people forever.

2. Mary was understandably confused because, based on the “facts of life” she learned from her mother, she knew this was impossible, but Gabriel assured her that nothing is impossible for God.  As proof, Gabriel told her that her post-menopausal cousin, Elizabeth, had recently become pregnant. Still, believing that an older, married woman who had been infertile would now have a child was one thing – this kind of thing had happened in the Old Testament to Sarah and to Rachel and to Hannah. But for a virgin girl to have a child, the Son of God?  

3. As overjoyed as she was at being so highly favored by God, the realities of Jewish cultural life and the common-sense skepticism of your neighbors, meant that she have to go away and stay with Elizabeth for a while. As she was approaching the house, Elizabeth herself came to meet her, proclaiming with joy that she is the most blessed of women, the mother of her Lord, and that the baby in her womb leapt at the sound of her voice, thrilled to have a visit from his Lord and her mother. 

4. Then, just as her time was drawing near to give birth, Mary had to travel about 100 miles with Joseph to Bethlehem, to be registered for a tax.  

5. When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, they went to stay with some of Joseph’s relatives, but they had no room in the main part of the house itself, so Mary and Joseph had to sleep with the animals.  (I'm sure this really made her feel like the highly favored mother of the Son of the Most High God.)

6. Among the animals, Mary went into labor and after a normal, dirty, painful childbirth (no epidurals, remember), she welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world.

7. Before long, a bunch of smelly, dirty shepherds showed up to brighten up the place.  They were excited and in awe of Mary and her child, saying that an angel had just visited them and told them that this baby is their Savior and Lord, the long-awaited Messiah and King of Israel.  

All of this certainly provides ample material for pondering. Mary did not fully understand the meaning of all of the strange and wonderful things that happened in her life, but she thought about them and considered them and compared the various events with each other:

  • She was the mother of the Son of God, and yet she was a simple Jewish peasant girl.

  • Her Son was the long-awaited Messiah, and yet He was the son of a carpenter in a small town ruled by the mighty Roman Empire. 

  • Angels proclaimed His coming, and yet they did so to shepherds out in the fields, not to the king in his palace or the priests in their temple. 

  • The King of the Universe, God’s only son, was wrapped in rags, asleep in a feeding trough.
As Mary pondered these things, she probably began to think that God’s ways were not like our ways, that the kind of king and kingdom God was working to establish were not what most people would expect.  Years later, she would have much to ponder as she saw this King of kings, God’s own Son, hanging naked and bloody and gasping for breath on a Roman cross.  

God decided to rescue the world by sending His Son to be born as a baby. He then saved His people by having His Son die a humiliating and brutal death. This is certainly something we need to ponder, even as Mary did. So, are we? Are you taking time to treasure and ponder the true message of Christmas and the true meaning of the Gospel this year?

Lord, give us hearts to treasure Your word and ponder Your gospel this year. May we consider Jesus always, not just at Christmas time. May we do more than consider. Maybe we believe and worship Him, now and always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"Mary, Did You Know?" by Pentatonix:

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