“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
As a child I was given a small wooden box in the shape of a heart. I’m not sure if it was for my birthday or for Christmas. I’m not sure if it came from my parents or maybe from my maternal grandmother. But I remember that it was beautiful, stained and polyurethaned, with vines stenciled on the front.
And I knew I only wanted to put truly special things in that heart shaped box. Such as the small garnet stones I had gotten in the Adirondacks or the baby tooth I had from when I was little (I was 8 years old by the time I received this box, after all, practically grown up in my own mind).
I treasured that box and I treasured and pondered the things it held for me, the treasures inside; what they meant in and of themselves, and what they meant to me, the one lucky enough to be entrusted with them.
What do we treasure in our hearts and lives? What was Mary treasuring in her heart all those many years ago, on that first Christmas, the day that Christ was born?
When we hear that Mary “treasured these words in her heart,” this refers to the words of the shepherds that had been shared with Mary. The Shepherds who told Mary and Joseph of how the angels had appeared to them and proclaimed that the Messiah had been born and that they would find this babe in Bethlehem. We read that when Mary heard these words she treasured them and she pondered them. To treasure and ponder something takes time and attention. And we read that Mary took that time and gave that attention to the birth of the Messiah.
We have such short attention spans as a society that we may have lost the art of treasuring. We get a bunch of stuff and we give a bunch of stuff to those we love for Christmas and then just weeks later we are bored of it and ready for the next wave of stuff in hopes that it will satiate the hunger within us.
But of course the hunger within us can never be satiated with stuff, and love cannot be given to someone by giving them stuff.
Indeed there is a hunger that lives inside us all, though we may fear to look at it because to look at it might reveal just how empty and out of control we can sometimes feel.
Yet maybe this hunger, if we can muster the courage to look at it straight in the eye; this hunger might just be a road God utilizes to help us better understand our need for redemption and just what a gift we have been given through the birth of Christ Jesus.
We can’t know for sure what Mary treasured about those words of the shepherds who had been led by angels to Bethlehem and the Messiah, or what revelations she came to. That part of the story wasn’t written down.
But I suspect Mary was treasuring and pondering how the Messiah really had arrived in the person of Jesus Christ, her new born child. Maybe Mary was treasuring that the Messiah really had arrived, just as the angel Gabriel told her it would, when announcing to Mary that she was pregnant with God’s child.
Maybe Mary was drinking in these words from the shepherds who had also been spoken to by angels, drinking in these words like water to the desert of her struggles through all those months to carry this child physically, emotionally and spiritually; to be courageous in the face of Joseph’s doubts about her fidelity; the grueling journey to Bethlehem for the census, the work of giving birth.
I can’t help but think that Mary was drinking all of this in as she treasured and pondered.
And we, like Mary, we, too, can drink in these words and treasure and ponder them as well! We, too, can be fed in the sometimes deserts of our lives and this world by the good news of the Messiah’s birth.
These words have been written down and passed down by our parents and grandparents and their parents and grandparents and countless other faithful people through the ages to be water to our dry places; to feed the hunger inside us all with news of the true Bread from Heaven who is the Messiah, Christ the new born King.
I lost track of that little box that I so treasured as a child. That’s the way of our earthly things, even the stuff we hold most dear will some day fade away. Not so with this gift of God in Jesus Christ.
Not so with the babe lying in a manger who is also the crucified and risen Messiah! For this Christ never loses track of us, and never becomes bored with us, and never moves on to the next thing. Instead the Christ is born again and again and again into our hearts, seeking to nurture and sustain our lives with all that is true and right and everlasting.
This is knowledge with which we can be fed not just temporarily, not just until the new stuff comes along, but for all of our earthly journeys and onward into eternity. God in Christ in seeking to give us this gift, to feed us forever in the promise and hope and reality of the Messiah, who has been born for us and for this world.
And that special box? It resurfaced some years ago, and I passed it on to my daughter. Because after all, all things worth treasuring are worth sharing with others, so they may come to treasure them, too. Most of all this precious gift of the Messiah, who is come with love to save and heal the world. Amen.