TEXT: Luke 2:17-20
This is a familiar passage at Christmastime. In fact, we read it at the Christmas Eve service. And I’ve preached a number of years on the encounter between the angels and shepherd, on the “good news of great joy” and the shepherds acts of seeking out the holy family, worshiping the Christ child, and sharing the news as they returned. That’s a great invitation and model for us to encounter Jesus: to come and see, to believe, to share what we’ve seen.
But today I want to focus on the few verses at the end, which briefly describe what was going on with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Treasuring What God Has Done
There’s just one verse, one sentence, given to describe Mary here. She has given birth and the baby is resting in the manger. And then these shepherds show up with a message from God about peace on earth and the Messiah-Savior and a baby born in Bethlehem. A bunch of shepherds with an angel-message might seem overwhelming, but Mary had already been through a LOT and heard from her own angel-messenger (as had Joseph). If anything, I imagine this might be affirming and confirming to her more than scary or strange. Nonetheless, we don’t get those kinds of details. What we read is that Mary “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (v.19)
It’s not even clear what “all these things” are. Is it the appearance of the shepherds and all the things the angels said to them? Is it all that Mary and Joseph have been through since she first heard from an angel that she was pregnant with the son of God? Either way, what I want to focus on is the word ‘treasured.’ Is that a word you use to describe what God has done? It is used in scripture. Jesus will grow up to tell parables about the Kingdom of God being like a pearl of great price for which a man sells all he has in order to attain it. He tells the rich young ruler to sell all he has and give it to the poor. He warns that you can not serve both God and wealth. That idea of treasuring what God has done is one that has some biblical context. Perhaps Mary even spoke in such terms to Jesus as he grew up.
What do you treasure? What would you do or give for that which you treasure?
What has God done, specifically related to you and your life? What would it mean to treasure those things?
Would it lead to praise? To worship? Would it cause you to re-evaluate the other things in life that you are tempted to treasure? I think yes to all that.
The particular word used here in Luke carries the connotation of guarding and keeping safe as one would with a treasure. Does knowing that add anything to your understanding of what and how you treasure what God has done? Do you take time to remember it, to give thanks for it, to pray for God’s continued presence and blessing? To me those are all aspects of safe-guarding the treasure of what God has and is doing.
Pondering What God Has Done
Verse 19 also says that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.” She thought deeply about what God had done and would continue to do in her life. Pondering is like an active internal dialogue; it can also be quiet meditation upon something. Basically it means you give attention to something to better understand and embrace it. Sometimes you might actively try to understand the pieces, the logic, the flow. Other times you might ruminate, or as I sometimes say, marinate. The point is still to better understand and embrace.
This is something that is important in our spiritual life. We need to take time to ponder, to reflect, to meditate, to marinate. It is helpful for us to understand, to embrace, to become knowledgeable and willing regarding what God has done and is doing. We can do that through times of prayer and times of quiet. What is distinctly not helpful is to fill every waking moment with noise, distraction, phones, and work. That’s one of the reasons for the Sabbath, to rest from work to ponder what God has done.
You might ponder the general work of salvation described in the Bible. Other times you might ponder where you feel stuck, or a challenge you face, or something you have taken to God in prayer. Holy pondering invites the Holy Spirit to engage your heart and mind to better understand and embrace what God has done and is doing.
Do you take time to ponder what God has done? Could you set aside a regular time to ponder what God has done? It’s a good and holy habit.
Sharing What God Has Done
That’s all we get about Mary here. The next verse returns to the shepherds. But I will say something briefly about them because it leads into our upcoming focus in January and February. In verse 20 we read that “the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”
In addition to treasuring and pondering what God has done, we have the opportunity and responsibility to SHARE what God has done. Can you readily share what God has done in your life? What would you talk about? What has God done? Where do you even start with that?
One of the best places to start is in the way that Mary did. She took time to take it in and reflect upon it. Like any memory, meaningful or not, if we don’t take time to remember and tell the stories, they won’t come readily to mind. Many of us do this at Christmas time with family. We recall that time when….
The time we all got together at the beach for Thanksgiving to see grand-dad receive an honor.
The time when a certain person was still with us and the memories we share about them.
The time when funds were tight, but we still were able to spend the day with loved ones.
It’s the same way with God-stories. We have to take time to remember when…
The time when God answered that prayer in a way we never would have imagined.
The time when we didn’t know what to do but God spoke through the faithful words of a friend to help lead us in the way forward.
The time when we were at the end of our rope and felt alone… and discovered God had been there all along.
Our stories are as varied as we are, but in order to share them we have to remember them, to ponder them, perhaps even to treasure them. And then in re-telling them we remember freshly how God showed up, what God did. And that’s just for us! That re-telling can also be a great encouragement to other people who may be facing similar challenges or questions or situations.
The shepherds came and saw and didn’t forget. They left and told the story. At some point Mary told her story. That’s why we can read about it today.
In January and February we are going to focus on sharing what God has done. We hope to offer a Sunday morning class to equip you to do this, to help you think through your life and where God has shown up, and collect those memories into something you can share. In worship I hope to find a different person or people each week to share a part of their story to encourage you about God’s faithfulness. And as a fun add on, I’ll also invite those who share to choose a song to go with their story. I’m calling it “This is my story, this is my song” – a line out of the beloved hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” I hope you’ll consider participating in the class and sharing part of your story in the class, in the newsletter, or in worship. These don’t have to be spectacular or extraordinary stories; just sharing from ordinary people about what God has or is doing in your life.
Mary and the shepherds remind us of the importance of treasuring, pondering, and sharing what God has done. By that, we bring glory to God. Amen.
Some Music Used
- The First Noel
- What Child is This
- While Shepherds Watched their Flocks (Peterson, from “Behold the Lamb of God”)
- Go Tell it on the Mountain