“Mommy, tell me the story of the night I was born.”
Mary knew that one day, her son would ask her that question. When I asked my Mom about the day I was born, it was a cool story, but it wasn’t like Mary’s. Mary’s involved travel, homelessness, uncomfortable donkey riding, stables and food troughs, but it also involved shepherd and angels. Sometime, between the cord being cut and the baby’s first diaper change, a ruffian group of hyped out sheep wranglers came knocking on the stable door.
Their eyes were filled with wonder and stories of God’s glory fell from their mouths (not what you would expect to hear from a first century Palestinian shepherd.) The words they spoke were resplendent and would have been difficult to take in. I imagine that the words they were saying fell around Mary like…like packing peanuts. They were difficult to grasp and harder still to hold together.
Luke 2, verse 19 says that Mary treasured the words and she pondered them in her heart. The Greek adds some additional flavor. The word for treasure is a word picture. It’s like Mary picking up packing peanuts one at a time, finding a place in her arms for each one. The next phrase, pondering them in her heart, is another word picture: it means to throw together. Jesus used this word when he talked about counting the cost of following him and said, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [Lk 14:31].” No one, throws together a war (hopefully), it’s careful and studied…intentional [Pro 20:18]
Mary threw their words together and grasped after them like picking up packing peanuts after a move.
The Gospel story is not just words that we are supposed to understand. It’s a greater than words kind of story. Like Mary, we gather the words together, but commit ourselves to living life with Christ, moment by moment. We don’t have to explain it, we get to experience it.
Christmas is an invitation to experience the presence of Christ wordlessly, without dissertation or explanation. And as Mary treasured and pondered the story as it began, we do the same…as it continues.