Amazing, Pondering, Treasuring
“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. Luke 2:16-20
Have you ever wondered what became of these shepherds, whatever their number, who were, as far as we know from the Bible, the only people other than Joseph and Mary who witnessed and worshipped God in the flesh, a new born baby, in a Bethlehem stable the day of Jesus’ birth? They are never spoken of again in Scripture. Did any of their own babies die when Herod perpetrated his terrible slaughter of the baby boys of Bethlehem over a year later after the visit of the wise visitors from the East? Were any of them around to see and hear Jesus when he began his public ministry thirty years after?
In any case the Scriptures seem to imply that these lowly shepherds surely believed and can be counted among the saints of glory, for Luke tells us they glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen. But what about those to whom they spoke of their glorious experience. Luke’s account tells us they were amazed by what the shepherds told them; they were astonished, surprised. When we examine the use of this same word “amazed elsewhere in the New Testament, we find that simple amazement does not always produce a faith that transforms one’s life eternally(compare Matthew 13:54-58 or even later in the same chapter of Luke verse 47). Very possibly some came to faith while others did nothing to follow up their amazement with a desire to know more about what they were told by the shepherds.
Amazement or astonishment does not always lead to a pondering or treasuring of these life-transforming mysteries as did Mary here and again in Luke 2:31. Though she was specifically chosen to be the Mother of God, even Mary did not immediately understand the mysteries that were invading her life. Nevertheless, she pondered and treasured them in her heart. This is exactly what the mystery and the Advent of Christ asks of each one of us: a “pondering leading to “treasuring. Saving faith knows nothing of amazement and astonishment that leads to less; a pondering (earnest, continuing, probing, meditative thought) drawn to treasuring the mysterious, personal One who through faith inhabits your life; not as some distant relation, but One who is personally close and intimate unlike any other.
The human spirit is amazed and astonished by all kinds of incitements in the world: birth of children, particular people in our life, sex, food, money, discovery, sights, music, success, failure, unexpected healing or sickness, “coincidental occurrences, tragedy, and appropriate to this time of year, surprise gifts. We tend to place Christ and the eternal future of our souls in these same temporal categories; among those “amazing and astonishing things that often pass until the next one arrives. We go from one to another, while not pursuing or pondering Christ’s coming to us (i.e. an Advent). We experience one amazing moment and are all too quickly anticipating the next, while not understanding that only One Object of our heart search will ever satisfy and never disappoint or fade away; rather the relationship grows, as the Bible says, from glory to glory.
Again this Advent Season you will experience some “amazing moments; eliciting joy, sadness, passion, or something else. The opportunity is there to meet Christ in it; pondering and treasuring who He is and who you are in Him. In essence did Mary ponder anything more than this that first harrowing Christmas night in which she gave birth? Mary must have thought to herself, “Who is this baby? Who am I in relationship to Him? Why are these shepherds here in the stable telling this mysterious story? The amazing moments are not just Mary’s. They keep on coming in your own life with a purpose of drawing your thoughts and affections in a Christ-ward direction. The spiritually thoughtless life leads eventually to despair; pondering and treasuring Mary’s way leads to heaven.
“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.
(4th verse of Phillips Brooks Christmas Carol hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem, 1868)
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