The best way to have a Merry Christmas this year is to make it a Mary Christmas. Do what Mary, the mother of Jesus did. Observe, reflect, and ponder the joy of God saving us from ourselves. Listen in to learn how.
In the midst of all the busyness and activity of the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about how we can all enjoy Christmas a little better this year. For me, I find it restful to think back to that very first Christmas over 2,000 years ago.
The first Christmas
Most of you know the story pretty well from the Bible. Joseph and Mary are in Bethlehem to be counted for a census. Mary is about to give birth, but there’s no lodging available. The town is packed with visitors.
Tradition has it that Jesus was born in a stable because Luke’s gospel makes reference to Jesus lying in a manager. What’s more likely though, is that he was born in one of the many shallow caves all around Bethlehem. I was there in the ‘80s on a Holy Land tour and saw several. Plenty of room for the manger, but the shepherds who visited probably gathered around the entrance to the small cave.
All of this is the backdrop to the climax of the story, where in Luke 2:19, we find this most soothing and reflective description of Mary,
…But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
I’m convinced that if we viewed our Christmas as Mary viewed hers, our hearts would be as calm as hers. Instead of a M-e-r-r-y Christmas, we can have a M-a-r-y Christmas.
To make it a Mary Christmas we start by observing, as Mary did. I can picture her taking note of the humble housing her baby, the son of God, is been born into. So in keeping with Mary’s own humble origins.
Being a first-time mother, I imagine she observed a sense of inadequacy within herself. On the one hand, “how am I going to do this? I’ve never been a mother before?” And on the other hand, “I know I can count on God to show me how to do this. After all, this story is not about me; it’s about him.”
As any mother would, Mary watches her baby, and those relating to him. There’s her husband Joseph. This good man who led her on the 95-mile journey on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Then there were the shepherds who came in from the fields excited to see what the angels told them would be lying in a manger. The word “but” in “… but Mary”, indicates a contrast between her and the shepherds. How different they are from her. She’s a city girl, while they are people of the land. They live outside, she lives inside.
A Mary Christmas includes everyone
The shepherds were strangers to Mary. They left their sheep in the fields to go see what the angel described to them that they would find in the manger
The shepherds were more the extroverted types, telling people in Bethlehem what the angels told them and what they saw, both from the “great company of angels” and what they saw in the manger.
Mary gives a more measured and introverted response in her “treasuring up” and “pondering” about the birth of Jesus. How wonderful of God to use people so different from each other to further his purposes. Extroverts and introverts, and all people in-between, have a place at the table when it comes to praising God for sending his son Jesus to save us all.
I wonder about you? What are you observing concerning Christmas this year? Is there anything new that God might want you to notice? Anything external in the world around you? Anything internal within your mind and heart.
Having made observations around her and within her, Mary reflects. As Luke puts it, she … treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart..
What are “all these things” that she treasured and pondered?
For starters, I imagine Mary treasured the time when the angel came to tell her she was going to give birth to Jesus, and all the implications of this miracle. And now what Gabriel told her has now come to pass.
Another thing I suspect she treasured was going to see her Aunt Elizabeth and what Mary shared with her at the beginning of her pregnancy and the end of Elizabeth’s. The three months they spent together were priceless.
And then, how could she not reflect on the joy she feels having just given birth to Jesus? And the joy of being used by God to channel this great blessing into the whole world.
I bet she also treasured and pondered all the possibilities of what’s going to happen next, not just for her personally, but for the rest of humanity.
How about you? What does your Christmas cause you to reflect upon? Looking back in God’s involvement in your life, what can you treasure and think about? What could be the possible opportunities in your near and distant future you can treasure?
Finally, notice the action words in Luke’s description, two verb phrases in
…But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
“Treasure up” and “ponder in one’s heart.”
What action could God be calling you to engage in, as Mary did?
What would you do well to “treasure up?” Are there things you could ponder in your heart?
To take action like this might mean finding a quiet place and just sitting and thinking about the important things of life. To an outside observer it may appear you’re doing nothing. Just sitting there staring off into space. But in actuality it could be the most important action you take all day.
The best Christmas gift
Like Mary, we can act by reflecting not only about what we love and appreciate about God, but also about what God thinks of us. I love this quote by Andrew Farley I came across recently,
“If there was one Christmas gift I could give all of us is, it would be the gift of knowing Jesus delights in you.”
I don’t think we do enough of this, pondering what God thinks about us. Imagine a God who loves us so much he sent his son away for 33 years to pay the penalty for something we did. 33 years of voluntary separation because of his love for all of us.
This is something we would do well to think about often and reflect upon in our hearts as Mary did. It would be good preparation for heaven, where we have no to-do lists. Nothing to accomplish, nothing to get done so we can move on to the next thing. Where we are never bored. Where our time will be taken up with marveling at all the wonders of God in its many manifestations.
Taking action like this will give us a glimpse of heaven every now and then and give us something to look forward to. And it will certainly help to make it a Mary Christmas this year.
Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode
To have a merry Christmas this year, make it a Mary Christmas. Do what she did. Observe what’s happening in and around you. Reflect upon the meaning of what you see. And then act by pondering the joy of God entering into our world to save us from ourselves. This will guarantee you a Merry/Mary Christmas for sure.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Comment” box at the bottom of the show notes.
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to observe, reflect, and act. It’s one important way you can find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
One thing you could do to help us out is to leave a review and rating wherever you listen to this podcast. It helps others to find us on the Internet
Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. But for now, Mary Christmas to all of you.
Related episodes you may want to listen to
135: Christmas with a Good Man Brings Joy
131: Thankful to Be the Person God Created Us to Be
You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of people like you to pay our bills. You can support what we do with a secure, tax-deductible donation when you click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.
The quote from Andrew Farley made my heart leap.
Being reminded that Jesus not only delights in me
(which is joy beyond truly comprehending),…
but then knowing that Immanuel lives IN me.
GRACE tied with a breathtakingly beautiful bow of
LOVE. What a gift!
Yes, Darlene, What a profound truth for us to rejoice in this time of the year, and throughout the year. Thanks for sharing your response!
Thank you John for this inspiring message. I am now going to Stop my hectic schedule to sit down for my Quiet devotions. I’m going to Rest, Reflect and Ponder many things as I reread the Christmas story. I’m planning on a very MARY Christmas & pray the same for You & Yours.
I’m encouraged by what you’re going to do, Patty. May we all do the same. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.