It all started with a carved nativity set I found marked at half price at an after Christmas sale. My husband had given me a gift card, and I had already filled my basket with lots of goodies at this little specialty shop near our house.
I was over my limit, but really wanted the nativity set. Without much thought, I asked the lady at the counter to ring up everything and tell me the total, before adding the set.
As she was ringing up sparkly snowmen, wooden stars made with berries and pine cones, fat fluffy cardinal ornaments and owl salt and pepper shakers, I noticed the temperature of my cheeks rising along with the rising numbers on the cash register tape.
I had literally made no room for Jesus.
How had I done it again? It was only one day after Christmas for goodness sakes, but how quickly and easily I had already let other things take precedence. Despite my chagrin, I did buy the nativity set, took it home and set it up on my kitchen counter.
Turning the figures of Mary and Joseph toward their precious baby, I began studying Mary’s face–the calm look of her tiny carved features. I wondered, how had Mary made room for Jesus?
She married Joseph, so it’s safe to assume that the couple would have had a home together. Before making this journey to Bethlehem, would Mary have been preparing for the birth of her baby? Until this year, I had never thought about this aspect of Jesus’ birth.
Did she have those ‘nesting’ tendencies like all expectant mothers seem to have–the feeling of urgency to prepare everything for the baby’s arrival? Did Mary ask Joseph to make a cradle for the baby? We know Joseph was a carpenter, so imagine how it could have looked. What might he have carved on it? The angel that had appeared to him in the dream? The baby’s name, Jesus? And how special to think that both Jesus’ earthly father and His heavenly Father would have worked together to create this cradle. God created the tree, and Joseph shaped it to fit the Son of God. Amazing.
Did Mary sit up late into the night cutting cloth to swaddle Jesus in? Researching the care of infants in ancient times, I found that swaddling clothes were used in place of cloth diapers. They would just replace the soiled section of wrapped cloth. I feel almost irreverent talking about it, but it was a fact of life. Jesus was human and would need all of the typical, human baby necessities.
So as Mary cut strips of cloth, how far did she allow her thoughts to wander? Did she dream only of caring for this chubby, dark-headed infant she would soon hold, or did she dare to let her mind wander to the words the angel had spoken to her and to Joseph?
“He shall be great…the Son of the Highest…He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever…the Son of God…the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David…He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:32-34)
If her son was to ‘reign over the house of Jacob’ or be given ‘the throne of His father David,’ then Mary could assume that her son would one day be a king. And if He would ‘save His people from their sins,’ then he would also be a Savior? But when? And how?
I don’t know about you, but my mind would have been running a million different directions–one direction would be assuring myself that God was going to pave this path to His son’s kingship with ease, with fanfare, and with the absence of hardship. This was the Son of God. He was even more privileged than a typical king’s son, and the children of typical kings have little or no hardship in their lives. Everything works out seamlessly for them, because their fathers see to it. If I were Mary, I think my finite mind would have had to naively assume that God would make the path ahead smooth and nearly problem free.
Boy would I have been wrong. In 12 brief words we can see that the path for Jesus was anything but smooth and problem free: census, eighty miles, Herod, Egypt, Satan, Pharisees, kiss, Roman soldiers, cross, death.
This had to give Mary much to think about. We know she took time to think and analyze what was going on around her, because of the verse in Luke 2.
“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
In the verses before this, the shepherds had just left the stable, “…making known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”
And then we get to verse 19, and it begins with the conjunction “but,” so we know there’s going to be an opposite viewpoint. Everyone in town heard these things about the angels appearing to the shepherds and about the Christ Child’s birth, and they ‘wondered’ about it. The word “wondered” means amazed, in awe, astonished, in disbelief. It was so astonishing, that they weren’t quite sure they even believed what they were hearing…
“But Mary kept…” The word “kept” means retain, use for the future, guard, protect. She may have been in awe, but she also believed. She was going to protect and guard all she had seen and heard and felt.
“…and ponder it in her heart.” I love the word “ponder.” I found that it comes from the Latin word for “weight.” Here Mary is storing away all that she is seeing and hearing and feeling, having no idea that in 33 years she would have to recall it all and weigh it against the plausible, the believable, and the sensible lies of the Evil One.
How does any of this apply to you and me? Well, I felt like the moral of the story was screaming to me as I studied this. How many times have I forgotten what I knew to be true–what I’ve kept in my heart? How many times have I loaded up one side of my scales with the Devil’s lies–this doesn’t make sense, this can’t be God’s will, God wouldn’t allow one of his children to go through this, if this is God’s will, why is it so hard–and on and on they go. I step back and throw up my hands and say, “See? God’s forgotten me, again.”
And of course that still, small Voice will begin to speak and to prod and to remind me of all that I have kept in my heart. All the promises He’s made and kept. All the promises in His word. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart…” (Ps.119:11) The scale begins to squeak.
“…thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) The scale begins to move.
And who is the truth? Who is the Word?
“I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6) The scale begins to tip.
“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) It tips further.
Who is the truth? Who is the Word?
Truth itself, tips the scales. The Devil is defeated, along with his age-old ploy of trying to make us forget all the Lord has done in the past, all His goodness, all His leading, all His guiding, all His truth.
“Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
She kept them. She weighed them. She knew the Truth.
We must do the same. I must do the same–in every situation, in every walk of life. No matter the heavy weight we bear, Truth will tip the scales every time.