On the mantel in my bedroom there is a letter I received almost 20 years ago from a teenage girl in love. It tells a tale of her passion and future plans with a boy, who quite frankly, never deserved her.
On days like today, I read it. Its words are like a beacon of light in the shadows. They call me to be the husband, father, lover, and friend I am remade to be. Every time I read those words it is as if it were the first time. I ponder their implications and desires, treasuring them deep within my heart. Once more, her words breathe life, and I can vividly see the author's dreams and visions for our future.
In Scripture, we experience the words of another teenage girl in love, Mary. In The Gospel of Luke we read, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” -Luke 2:14
Mary, the mother of Jesus. The word for treasure here means to keep closely together, to conserve, to remember: keep, observe, protect. The word for ponder means to converse, to bring together in one's mind, confer with one's self, and even to fight with internally.
What were these “things” that Mary was keeping close and bringing together to observe, guard, and protect? And why should we care? In Luke, we see Mary getting a visit from Gabriel. We read his reassuring words to “fear not,”and hear assurance of “how God's favor is upon her.”
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” -Luke 1:38
Eventually in the other gospels she would go to her betrothed Joseph and let him know that she is carrying someone else’s child. How must have that felt? We read that Joseph was a righteous man and didn’t want to shame her but set to divorce her quietly. But then The Angel of the Lord appears in a dream with the same words, “fear not.”
In these sweeping narratives, sometimes we miss the ugly details: the looks of unbelief and shame from everyone around her. We miss the jeers and scorn of those judging her as they walk by. Do we forget even God’s holy actions have consequences? But Mary tunes out their words, even her own words within, and focuses on God. In real-time Mary thoughtfully organizes what stays and goes into the treasure chest of her heart.
Mary rests on the peaceful anthems of her God. When the songs around her scream otherwise, she centers herself and even praises The Lord Himself with a new song. (Luke 1:46-55)
Wise men will show up in a few years and remind her, yet again, who this baby is. This child has quite the road left to travel. As a woman and mother how can she, will she, get through this journey? Just like she did before. She treasured the right treasure. The words of the shepherds, the angels, even the righteous man Simeon and prophetess Anna at Jesus’ circumcision, all caused her to marvel. This baby would reveal the hearts of many (Luke 2:34). It has already started with her and continues to this day. How do we truly know she treasured these things?
Because we can still read them in scripture today. The good words from God Himself she has told for the whole world to still hear. Who else was with the angel for those talks? Who else was with Elizabeth when The Holy Spirit came upon her and John leaped in her womb? Who else was at the manager with the shepherds or at the Temple with the baby?
She knew these marvels, and their Creator, and guarded them as if a galaxy truly was in the balance. She pondered them and carefully passed them on to others, including Luke, who wrote them for us to still read today.
These words and promises helped her to get through. These hidden treasures were strong anchors to her son's future storm-laden life. Like a received and cherished card or gift, she held onto those words during seasons of joy as well as seasons of darkness.
We are deep within this season of Advent, a time of treasuring and pondering His first and His next coming. But many of us haven’t taken the time to notice. What if the texts, emails, calls, and words we receive and allow to stay in our hearts, were from a far greater voice? A better encourager, pursuer, lover, and friend? A better, shall I say, God?
The simple fact remains we ARE right now currently treasuring someone and their words. But who’s? Can you recall the painful and hurtful words someone has spoken to you with ease? You probably can even remember where you were and many, many, more details. Why are you still holding onto their words? Do they truly define you? Are they what Jesus has said about you? No.
If we can value other people’s words so deeply, how much more should we value The King of Kings’ words and He who can save?
What if, like Mary, we decided to ponder and hide deep within us a better treasure? (Luke 2:33) What must we do to help His words drill deeply into our hearts?
Reflect for a moment. If you find yourself letting relationships with those around you influence whether you feel like you are on top of the world or find life not worth living, stop. Make a hard stop and turn to Jesus. If the True King and His decrees are the marching orders you follow, you will not be shaken.
I pray The God who sings over you (Zechariah 3:17) may turn up His volume from within you and help you to replace the false treasure within your chest with His Words. That The God of The Word and His words will begin to rattle off of your tongue boldly. And like Mary, you will be able to sing and discern His truth (Luke 1:29) in the midst of chaos, fear, and even joy.
Remember that letter I mentioned in my intro? It’s from my bride, and the words mean a lot to me. But it’s the author herself who I truly love and learn to love through those words. She reminds me so much of Mary in these texts. And she too can get through anything with Jesus as The King of her heart.
There’s no magical formula for this, or quick fix. But good news! Take heart and fear not! God already lives within those who have placed their faith in Him. He has freed you, from placing all of your hope and faith in mere humans, children, careers, or other earthly things. Instead of just trying to get through these holidays, let’s ponder and treasure the King of Kings, and boldly spread His Story to all.