The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
I find the way Luke wraps up his telling of the nativity story fascinating. He essentially brings this epic tail crashing back to earth and leaves it in the mundanity of normal life:
“The shepherds return” - they go back to their day job of tending sheep - albeit with a new found sense of joy.
Mary and Jospeh do the customary thing of having Jesus circumcised and then in Luke 2:39 we’re told they too “return home”. Presumably to just crack on with life and parenting!
So in just a few short verses we go from the high drama of a heavenly host of angels appearing and declaring news of epic, world-changing proportions, to business as usual.
Its almost feels a bit... disappointing!
How often is it like that for us in ministry? We go from the high drama of Friday night, when that event we've been building up to for weeks finally happened, and people encountered Jesus and it was ridiculously amazing, and then we come crashing back down to the mundanity of Monday morning and clearing our inbox or spam. And it feels a bit... rubbish! How on earth did Mary and Joseph manage this shift!?
I think Luke tells us: "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
There's so much wisdom in this little phrase.
What glimpses of God have I had this term that I need to store up?
I'm inspired by Mary’s long term commitment to these memories here. The next thing we hear about Jesus is 12 years later! Think about that… Whilst we get to skip a decade in a couple of verses, Mary and Joseph had to live a full 12 years, before the next thing that was considered note-worthy happened! From custom stars, angels, and magi to 12 whole years of fairly mundane, humdrum, business as usual.
I bet you Mary had to rely on the memories of Jesus' birth to sustain her during this time!
We often hold onto our testimonies, those encouraging glimpses of God, for the short term. For a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, we bring them out lots, to encourage (and occasionally brag) about what’s going on in our ministry. But after a while (often after we’ve told everyone who’ll listen!) life moves on. The stories get old and we stop bringing them out. And then we forget.
In some ways this is understandable - and in many ways its good that we want more current, recent testimonies to share. We expect God to keep moving and keep working. But I often think that in our pursuit of the new, we too quickly abandon the old. What would it look like to treasure them more?
How are you capturing and treasuring testimonies for the long term - so you can pull them out of the treasure chest in the future?
Don't discard the past... it might be one of the key things you'll have to sustain you when things get tough, or even just mundane!
What else about Mary’s treasuring of memories encourages / inspires / challenges you?
For more Nativity-prompted reflections check out the posts below:
Photo credit: Roman Kraft