No Christmas season would be complete without the reading of the second chapter of Luke—the account of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, presiding over the birth of Jesus in a stable or cave, and receiving shepherd-guests.
Toward the end of the account, as those shepherds were spreading the word of Jesus’ birth, Luke wrote, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v. 19).
Indeed. She had much to process:
- Her baby was the Messiah, the Promised One, who would save his people from their sin. I wonder if she studied him, looking for signs that he was different from other infants.
- This was the Prince of Peace cradled in her arms. Yet he had been born to a common village girl in very primitive conditions. Did that seem strange to her?
- The shepherds had learned of his birth when angels visited them, just as the angel, Gabriel, had visited Mary and then Joseph. Gabriel had also visited Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Four angel visitations in a matter of months. Never had that happened before.
I find myself pondering, too—pondering Mary herself–this dear, young girl who carried a tremendous burden for a long time.
Dear means beloved and valued. Mary is certainly that for numerous reasons.
- She embraced Gabriel’s announcement with great faith. “May it be to me as you have said,” (Luke 1:38). She put herself in the care of God in spite of incomprehensible circumstances.
- Her prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), gives indication of a heart fully committed to God.
- She endured much: shame for her pregnancy, a long, uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem, and crude circumstances for the birth of her Son.
Mary was young—perhaps between thirteen and fifteen years of age. That was the typical age for a girl to be married in Bible times.
Yet, young as Mary was, Gabriel praised her for being “endued with grace” (v. 28, AMP). In addition, Mary demonstrated stamina, maturity, and gentleness beyond her years, in dire circumstances. No doubt God graced her with these traits. But I have to believe Mary also had freedom of choice, as we all do, to embrace God’s way for her.
But what I ponder most about Mary is the fact she carried a tremendous burden, given to her by an elderly man, Simeon, eight days after Jesus was born.
You undoubtedly remember the story. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple at Jerusalem to be circumcised. There they met the righteous and devout Simeon who had been waiting decades for the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him he would not die until he had seen the Lord Christ.
Immediately upon seeing the child, Simeon knew this was the One. He praised God for keeping his promise, blessed Mary and Joseph, and then spoke particularly to Mary, saying Jesus would cause some to rise and some to fall, and the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.
Simeon’s last words must have caused Mary’s eyes to grow wide and her heart to skip a beat: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:21-35).
What?! Wasn’t the worst behind her? Surely Mary wanted to ask Simeon, “What do you mean?” Scripture gives us no indication that she did so. Perhaps Simeon walked away, leaving the stunned couple to stand speechless there in the temple court.
For thirty-three years those last words of Simeon must have echoed in Mary’s mind again and again. How does a person live with such long-term foreboding? Perhaps her mind turned back to the night of Gabriel’s visitation. Perhaps, for thirty-three years, Mary repeated what she had told the archangel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (1:38).
Mary may very well have developed the calm assurance that even when God’s ways are baffling, we can rest assured he is orchestrating events to accomplish far more than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20). She had been witness to such orchestration in Bethlehem.
Mary knew that even our personal hardships can fulfill purposes that extend far beyond ourselves.
That’s a lesson for all of us to embrace with calm assurance.
(Art credit: www.seekerville.blogspot.com.)