“But Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.”
I was eight-years-old when I got to play Mary in a Christmas pageant. Back then, in 1956, it was common practice to celebrate Christmas with class parties in public schools. When in the third grade, however, each class at my school presented some aspect of the Christmas Story in the school cafeteria. I have no recollection of what the other classes presented, but Mrs. Rollins class of 33 boys and girls sang “We Three Kings” as we made our way slowly toward the cafeteria “stage”. Paired as Joseph and Mary, I can still remember the excitement I felt walking across the stage with my head draped by one of my mother’s silky scarves. As I cradled “Jesus” (actually my babydoll Susie) wrapped tightly in a piece of soft flannel, I didn’t think about the oddity of pairing a song featuring the three Wisemen with Joseph and Mary’s journey. I only remember that, as we sang“Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright,” tears of joy started welling in my eyes as the baby Jesus became the Star of Wonder in my mind and heart. To this day, whenever I hear “We Three Kings” sung, tears still threaten as I am transported back to my one shot at being Mary and briefly cradling the Star of Wonder in my arms.
This Advent season Mary again touched my heart in a profound way. It happened while reading Luke’s account of Mary’s encounter with the angel in 1:28-38:
“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.’
As I thought about Mary’s response to the angel I was puzzled:
Why did Mary not embrace the news gladly?
Why did fear enter her heart?
Wasn’t the angel’s greeting what every believer desires to hear,
“Well done good and faithful servant”?
As I considered Mary’s response and the exchange that followed with the angel, I was struck by her lack of naivety. When it came to responding to the news given by God’s messenger, Mary’s response demonstrated an understanding and faith that far surpass my own. Consider the one question she asked the angel:
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Mary’s only question was very practical and to the point as to understanding her place in God’s Plan . . . “HOW will this be?”
Mary’s composure rattled me. Trying to put myself in her position, I was awestruck that she never once asked, “WHY?” (Knowing myself the way I do, the first question that too often fills my mind when something unexpected happens is, “Why?!!!”) Only after the angel told he how the the conception of God’s Son was to take place within her–along with the exciting news about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth–did she reply with a steadfast, unequivocal faith:
”I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.
“May your word to me be fulfilled.”
In that moment, I became convicted that I wanted to work toward emulating Mary’s example, grateful that because of Jesus I too am God’s servant.
Living in a world full of trouble, all too often fear silences us when, deep down we know that God would have us say or do something. That is why this Christmas, I’m writing to encourage each of you to join me in resolving to guard against giving way to fear (and the panicky “Why?!!” question) by more intentionally asking God:
“HOW? How would You have me proceed in this situation?
How would You have me love my neighbor?
How can I best represent and honor You?”
As I remember my experience of so long ago, that of tearing up as Mary cradling the Star of Wonder in my arms, I am reminded of something the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage friends living in troubled times:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
‘children of God without fault
in a warped and crooked generation.’
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
We can be grateful that our times are in His most capable hands this Christmas and always . . . ALL TO HIS GLORY!