Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pondered Them in Her Heart

Probably you  have heard the Christmas story lots of times.  The virgin riding on the donkey to Bethlehem with her fiancee.  The shepherds receiving news from angels while they watched their flocks at night.  The wise men traveling from afar.  All of these make up the Christmas story, and you can find all of these in a manger scene, such as the one on my family's coffee table.

Mary and Joseph stand next to the manger, praying over their newborn son.  The angel looks on, seemingly keeping guard over the Christ child.  On the edges, in the shadows, the shepherds come forward, somewhat timidly to welcome their king.  And the wise men arrive from the east.

In the gospels, we get two stories of Jesus' birth.  Both are vivid in detail and tell the story well. But, in these stories, you rarely see the first person, how each person felt during that event.

Mary is the one we know the most about.  We know her hesitation when the Lord told her she would bear the son of God.  In Luke 2, we are even offered a glimpse into heart.   It says, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  Mary just gathered all the amazing things to herself and thought about them for a long time.   How much more is there to her that we don't see?

When I went to a women's event at my church, the speaker pointed out that Mary is often portrayed as looking better than she probably did.  I mean, this girl has just given birth!  Always she is holding the baby tenderly, or praying, or looking like a saint.  Mary's life was completely changed by a visit from an angel and, more importantly, a baby.  She was getting ready to marry this wonderful man, and suddenly, he won't marry her anymore.  She endured ridicule and shame.   How did she take it all?  Did she shrink within herself and feel sorry for herself?  I don't think so.  I believe that she chose to trust God and lean on him.

Now what about Joseph?  From the beginning, he wasn't as well informed as Mary was.  It wasn't until later that he was told about God's plan for Mary's child.  Think of the doubt and loss of trust he must have had.  This girl he was engaged to had gone and betrayed him.  He must have felt deeply hurt and ill-treated.  Then he received the message from the angel in his dream.  And he believed the angel.  Would you?

The animals.  I know that animals don't have souls, but did they have some sense of whose presence they were in?  Did the donkey know he held the King of Kings?  Did the barnyard animals know what special baby was in their stable?

Here we have the shepherds.  The lowliest of the low.  Even in our manger scene, one is missing a hand, another is missing his staff, and the third keeps falling over.  These were the nobodies.  The ones kings turned away and who innkeepers closed doors to.  Sheep keeping was a pretty boring job.  They would watch the sheep eat and sleep........ and eat and sleep........... and eat and sleep some more.  Occasionally, a wolf might attack the flock, but on the most part NOTHING HAPPENED!  One day became another with the same monotonous pattern.  These guys were probably tired, cranky, and bored when the angels appeared to them.  Think what a shock it must have been!  These shepherds have probably never seen a king, and her they are receiving messages from the King of Kings.  Did they feel skeptical?  Maybe unworthy?

Finally, the wise men.  These were the guys that had it all.  They weren't just kings, but they were WISE kings.   They were the ones you would go to with a question or problem.  A star in the sky revealed what course they should take.  Did they ever have doubts that their journey was going in the right direction? Did they feel humbled in the presence of the baby King?

We may never have all the answers about how these people thought or felt.  But what we do know is this: all of them blessed Jesus by being at his birth.  

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