“But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” Luke 2:19
Something about the holidays stirs within me a spirit of reflection. Reflecting on the year that is about to draw to a close. Reflecting on the passing of years. Reflecting on the possibilities of the coming year. Reflecting on the goals set, goals missed, and goals achieved. Reflecting on the possible goals for the year to come. Reflecting on personal growth, or lack thereof. Regardless of how old I become, each year Christmas fills me with a sense of wonder and excitement. It’s as if, during the Christmas season, I am reminded that Jesus’ birth was a miracle and He is still God of the miraculous. How often do I place parameters on God and limit His movement by my own lack of faith in what He may or may not accomplish? Christmas reminds me that miraculous moments do still occur, if only we have the eyes to see. Perhaps it is with a limited scope that I define miracle. That God pursues me and seeks to have a relationship with me is miraculous. His Word is alive and active. As I open it each morning, I feel the electricity within its pages as God moves through the written words and speaks directly to my spirit. Is that not a miracle? God sent His Spirit to indwell His children and He is always present. A miracle. Our minds have been conditioned to see only what is in front of us, if even that. In our age of technology we have become one-dimensional and have become adept at skimming the surface, rarely diving deeper or looking beyond what is in front of our faces. In many ways, we have lost the art of experiencing wonder at anything. Our heads are down in our phones and life is getting lived all around us and we miss so many moments. In those moments, how many gifts of our beloved Father have we missed? The hustle and bustle of life creates a frenzied state of emotions and we struggle to appreciate and enjoy the moments as they occur. We take for granted that there will be another one to come along, if we miss this one.
Personally, I am studying some in the book of James right now, among other things. Yet I was reminded just this morning that James, the half-brother of Jesus, recognized how fleeting life is, and how arrogantly we assume tomorrow. It is a stark reminder of just how little time we have here to do what God has placed us here to do. We get so caught up in the here and now that we forget that this world is not our home and we are just temporary citizens because our home is in heaven. Often, we don’t appreciate the value or beauty of moments until they have passed. And we wish we could return back to the moment and savor it, treasure it, and hold it dear. Recently, I saw a Facebook post that a woman posted of her children decorating the Christmas tree, acknowledging that it would be the last time before her child weds. That got me thinking about how I wish I had realized that, last year on the day after Thanksgiving, it was the last time all of my children would be here decorating together. The last trip where we all cut down our live Christmas tree. I felt this deep sense of loss, of not truly treasuring the moment as I wish I had or should have at the time. Not that I would have spent the day lamenting it would be the last time, only that, in hindsight, I wish I had not taken it for granted. The moments are the miracles. The moments are the gifts. Oh that we would wake up, open our eyes, and begin looking for the fingerprints of God all over our days. How much would our perspectives change! Our phones would become less engaging, and we would become more engaged with people and true connection. Our eyes would behold the majesty of a sunset amidst the clouds on a cold winter’s day. Our Good Father bestows abundant gifts that are personally chosen just for us. I am learning to delight in all of the seemingly minor blessings that would once upon a time go unnoticed. For example, I love deer. Growing up and living where I do, deer are fairly commonplace. But, it never fails. When I am in my kitchen and I see one traipse from the woods across our backyard, I am delighted. And I know that God did it just for me because it delights my heart so. Two nights ago, my dogs were acting silly, sillier than usual for them, and genuine laughter flowed from heart through my lips. God graced me with that moment. His creation delights me. He desires us to delight in Him, to delight in the wonder of His creation, never losing sight of Him as we enjoy it. Before this year, I had never given much attention to birds. For whatever reason this year, I decided I wanted to hang some bird feeders for our feathered friends that frequent our house, as it is set back into the woods. How much fun we have had with those this year! Each morning and throughout the day, I often lose minutes and catch myself standing at the door, observing their antics. And their magnificent beauty. We have a host of cardinals that visit daily. How vibrantly beautiful they are. I marvel at the intricacy of God’s creation. And I am amazed that not even a sparrow falls without His notice (Matthew 10:29). We have grossly underestimated the goodness and generosity of our God. In our modern culture, we don’t like to wait for things. We don’t spend time in nature like generations before us did. We spend so much time in cold and plastic worlds. But God is so rich in his blessings. We hear abundance and think of it materialistically. Material riches are nothing to our God. Oh that we soak and absorb in the abundant spiritual riches with which He has graciously blessed us. It is time for us to wake up, to look up, and to take notice. What better time of year to be reminded of the wonder of a moment than at Christmas?!
Mary, Jesus’ mother, she didn’t miss those moments. Imagine being the mother of God’s one and only Son. May we all take a lesson from Mary this Christmas season. There she was, this teenage girl, pregnant by the Holy Spirit, facing certain questions, judgments, and even humiliation. But she believed God. She was willing to be used by Him and was humbled that He would look upon her and choose her to be the mother of His Son. In the midst of the uncertain circumstances of her day, she did not lose heart. She did not lose sight of her role, though she certainly would have cause to. She gave birth to God’s Son in a stable, placed her baby boy in a manger, amongst the cows, the sheep, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever other types of livestock were present. Then shepherds visited them in the stable, telling them of the heavenly host of angels that appeared to them announcing the birth of the Messiah. What would Mary have been thinking? We don’t know exactly, but we do know that she treasured the events in her heart, pondered them, and meditated on them. Interestingly enough, that was not the only time we read of Mary responding this way. Fast forward to Jesus being 12 years old and visiting Jerusalem with His family for the annual Passover celebration. After the time of celebrating was complete, Jesus’ family trekked back home to Nazareth and on the third day, they returned to Jerusalem realizing Jesus had not been present in their traveling caravan. His parents found Him in the temple complex with the teachers. Jesus returned to Nazareth with them, after asking why they had searched for him because He had to be in His Father’s house. At the time, they didn’t understand His words, but Scripture tells us He was obedient to them. And again, we read in Luke 2:51 that “His mother kept all these things in her heart.” What that tells me about Mary is that she practiced this as a lifestyle. She treasured them in her heart when Jesus was a newborn, and 12 years later, we read she was still keeping these things in her heart. Mary treasured the moments. May we all be like Mary this holiday season and beyond. May this be the beginning of a new way to approach life, not just at Christmastime. May we wonder at the moments and treasure them in our hearts, recognizing them as the gifts they are from our heavenly Father above! And maybe, just maybe, when you see a cardinal, vibrantly red against a bleak backdrop, may you look up and smile, raising your arms heavenward in a posture of willingness to receive from God.