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A Pondering in the Heart

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

When Mary and Joseph arrived in the town of Bethlehem it was late. They had traveled far on their journey from Nazareth and Mary must have been extremely warn as she was about to give birth to her first born. It would have been a very hard journey for a man or woman to venture and even more so if one was heavy with child.

Most likely they would have taken the eastern route to avoid traveling through Samaria a land that the Jew would have no dealings with, “Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” (John 4:9) They would have followed the Jordan River south to the town of Jericho. Jericho is the lowest level city and the hike to Jerusalem would have been a 3,500 foot climb. Mary certainly was exhausted when they arrived at Bethlehem and how stressed she must have been when Joseph could not better housing than a hollowed out cave used as a stable. Still it was shelter and the couple bedded down for the night. It was that night, the first Christmas Eve that Mary gave birth to the new born King.

In the pasture land surrounding Bethlehem were shepherds tending their flocks and telling their stories. Maybe as the working class they were expressing their concerns for life under Roman rule. Politics is always a topic for men who desire a better way. Suddenly in their midst stood an angel and the glory of the Lord shown all about them. It must have been a frightening experience to see a supernatural being appear before their eyes and I imagine even the bravest of men would have cowered at the sight. The angel spoke and said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10) The angel told them where to find the child who would be their Savior and then a host of angels appeared and gave praise to God. “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) With such a supernatural announcement from a God so powerful they must not only have been taken in by their own curiosity but felt the responsibility of going to see this wonderful thing that had happened.

The Shepherds found the child laying in a manger and they explained to all who were present the things that the angel had told them. They explained that a host of angels were singing praises to God in the Highest. This was a marvelous story to hear and they all marveled at its telling. “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary must have remembered what the angel had said to her, “The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) It must have been a startling event for an angel to appear before you. It must have been a life changing event to have that angel say to you, that God has found favor with you. How I long to see Him and hear Him bless me with these words. “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)

Mary must have remembered the words of the Prophet Isaiah which were written in the scriptures. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) God had found favor with her and she would now be the holy mother of the Son of God. Mary a young Jewish girl would be given the blessing of being the woman that would bring God’s living Word to live amongst men which would bring eternal salvation. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Mary must have remembered how when she went to visit Elizabeth that the child she had been blessed with, John the Baptist, leaped with joy at the presence of Mary’s child in the same room. “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” (Luke 1:44 Surely Mary, as many a mother does, kept a written record of these mighty things that were happening in her life. Knowing that this child laying in the manger was truly the Son of God and the Savior of the world, this was but the beginning and would never end. That this privilege that God had given to her was also an awesome responsibility that the history of eternity would judge her by. It was more than any treasure found in this realm, it was a deposit upon the treasure that can be found only in God’s Heaven. It was more than a short passing thought but a living that would be meditated upon for ever more. In her heart Mary weighed the measure of the truth that laid before her in the manger, as we all must do. A love so pure and unconditional that only a Holy righteous God can give. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)

May took these spiritual truths as treasures and kept them in her heart. They had from earliest childhood in the land of Palestine guided her in a marvelous way that she had found favor with God. The Jewish youth in Palestine would learn to read and write at the synagogues. The only written literature was the Scriptures from the Old Testament. Thus the Jewish children were well versed in the Scriptures and knew the Words written from God. They knew God’s Law and they knew the stories of the Old Testament fathers and prophets. They couldn’t carry the Scriptures home with them as we can today and they had to memorize them and this requires repetitive recital. They knew God’s Word and no doubt Mary meditated upon His Word daily. As a result, she found favor with God by living by His Word. Mary the mother of our Lord provides the very example that each of us should live by every day in our walk with Jesus.

We find ourselves trying to live a good life without sin and yet we stumble and fall. The Apostle Paul had this same conflict in his life that he strived to live a righteous life but found himself doing things that were not pleasing to God. “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:19) All fall short of the glory of God because we are trapped in the flesh with its sinful nature. The answer is not to abide in ourselves for we are prone to a sinful nature. We cannot live a righteous life under our own power. If righteous living is the desire of our heart, then God has provided away for us to live in His power to overcome our fallen state. What we cannot do in our strength we can accomplish in His strength.

The key to our righteous life comes to me in this verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) This is the teaching from the child that was born unto Mary on that early morn in Bethlehem. Following the Lord’s Supper Jesus and His disciples were on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane and past the Temple prompting Jesus to teach this instruction. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

I find nowhere in the Scripture that we are to resist sin during our daily walk in our own strength. We cannot produce the good fruit with any Church programs or the latest fads of feel good doctrine. There is no command to love apart from God’s love. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) The Christian walk is an effective work of service, evangelizing, and discipleship in and through Christ for Christ and His glory and apart from Him we are powerless to achieve it. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The Westminster Confession states that the chief end of man is to glorify the Father. The Christian does this not by acting as a Christian but by treasuring God’s Word and meditating upon it throughout his walk in Christ. That is embedding God’s Word in our heart. His Word created the universe and His Word empowers our life through Him. It is then that we receive the transforming power of our Lord in that we put off the old way of life and put on the new. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) We turn away from this world and walk towards the greater world to come. This is the power of His Word, the Word of life. “And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, December 6, 2015

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