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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

What Mary Treasured and Pondered - 12/24/2016

Mary was “in the know” from the beginning. Before Jesus became big enough to start interacting with the world a little bit, before he became the great teacher and revolutionary who we still study today, before he was persecuted and lynched, before the empty tomb that defied all logic and poured God's love over all of creation, before all of that, Mary knew Jesus.

She knew him in the way a mother begins to know her child as it grows and starts to show its personality in the womb, and then for those short few months when a newborn is completely dependent on a mother's milk, a mother's arms, a mother's protection and love.

Simultaneously, she was learning to know him as the Son of God … the One the prophets foretold. We heard about it in our reading from Isaiah today, which we read together when we lit the Advent Wreathe – it is a teaching that also would have been familiar to Mary. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, said the prophet Isaiah. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

She was getting to know this child not just as the little human being growing within her, but as the One who would come to free God's creation from those who oppress and hoard and harm.

Mary knew Jesus first and, outside of God, probably best. And so when we come to this part of our Christian story today, where we once again make our yearly pilgrimage to join Mary and Joseph as they welcome their newborn son in such a difficult and dangerous time and place, I think we should remind ourselves to be astounded at hearing: “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

She treasured and pondered this report the shepherds brought them – an Angel had visited them too and told them: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” (vs. 11-12)

She treasured these things – she stored them up in her memory and took care of them. She pondered these things – she thought about them deeply and repeatedly. They wove themselves in and out of her thoughts, her prayers, her vision of the future, the way she grew to become a mother.

This isn't the only time Mary says something like this in Luke's story of Jesus. Time passes quickly in this story and before this chapter of Luke is done, Jesus is 12-years-old and has been separated from his family on their yearly pilgrimage up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Mary and Joseph searched the city for three days before they finally found Jesus hanging out at the temple listening to and questioning the priests and scholars there. Mary and Joseph were very upset and, like any parents, they let Jesus have it. “How could you do this?” they asked him. “We've been worried sick.”

But then Jesus says: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (v 49)

That response probably made Joseph even more mad, but Mary “treasured all these things in her heart,” the gospel tells us. (v 51b)

In both cases, Mary is in the throes of very frightening situations –  first as a young and vulnerable, poor, brown-skinned, refugee woman giving birth in a stable; and second as a more seasoned mother, frantically searching for her lost child in a busy city filled with strangers  – and yet she comes out of it all with this non-anxious and thoughtful  attitude of treasuring and pondering “all these things” in her heart.

To understand more fully what “all these things”are that Mary treasures and ponders, we should go back to the first thing laid on her heart by God when God's messenger Gabriel came to tell Mary that she would bear this child.

“Greetings, favored one!” Gabriel says. “The Lord is with you.”  Mary was very perplexed by the messenger's words and that is where the pondering first began – Mary pondered what sort of greeting she was hearing from Gabriel. So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end ... he will be called Son of God … For nothing will be impossible with God.” (1:28-37)

This was the first of all the things Mary pondered and treasured in her heart … this news that she would bear the Son of God – and all the honor and hardship that would come with that call.

I think Mary treasured and pondered this message from Gabriel, this affirming witness of the shepherds and this truth from the mouth of her 12-year-old son throughout her life.

She pondered and treasured these things when as a grown man and gifted rabbi, Jesus came home to preach and teach in Nazareth only be be rejected, and nearly run off a cliff by his own people.

She pondered and treasured all these things when she heard about the sick man who showed up in the middle of Jesus' teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. The man was possessed by a demon and Jesus commanded it come out of the man and it did. But before the demon was cast out, people said the it spoke to Jesus and said “I know who you are, Holy One of God.” Jesus was healing people who were sick in many ways –  and the news of his healing gifts were getting more and more attention.

Mary pondered and treasured all these things when she began to hear how Jesus' teachings and interpretation of God's law threatened some of the powerful leaders in the church and the government. They kept trying to trap him into saying something against God's law and when they couldn't they began looking for other ways to shut his ministry down.

Mary leaned hard into all these things she pondered and treasured in her heart the day her son was arrested … the day he was mocked and dragged through Jerusalem and hung on a cross to die.

And she pondered and treasured all these things as she rejoiced with  everyone when her son defeated death and rose from the dead ensuring eternal life with God for all people.

Mary pondered and treasured all these things her whole life as she watched Jesus grow from that child she first laid in a manger to the Risen God she kissed goodbye when he ascended into heaven.

And she pondered and treasured all these things as she looked forward  with her knowing and gentle mother's heart to a future where she knew there would always be a need to clothe the naked and feed the hungry and to welcome the stranger; a future where she knew God's people would to continue to follow her son's command to place God and care of neighbor above all else; a future were we would continue to fall short of doing that well, but where we would be forgiven our shortcomings and urged by one another in our God-centered communities to keep trying.

She pondered and treasured all these things as she looked with her knowing and gentle mother's heart to us and this church of Christ-in-the-world now where we gather together around a simple table of bread and wine and are nourished and emboldened to be the people her son freed us to be, a people redeemed, as our reading from Titus reminded us this evening. A people purified by the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus, a people of Jesus' own who are zealous for good deeds,” and who, like his mother Mary, ponder and treasure all these things in our hearts always. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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