By: Autumn Elizabeth
“All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Luke 2:18-19
We have reached the pinnacle. Those of us who celebrate Christmas have prepared our hearts, our streets, our homes, and our churches for this very moment. Jesus, Emmanuel, Messiah, born again for us, and we are amazed. We tell it on mountains, sing it with the heavenly hosts, and proclaim it with the shepherds. We have a thousand and one traditions to celebrate this very moment.
But what about Mary? Luke writes, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Why does Mary take this moment to herself? Why doesn’t she celebrate with the rest?
Many people may point out that she has just given birth and must be exhausted, or perhaps her reaction is simply of little consequence in the grand scheme. But Luke makes no qualms about the importance of Mary. In fact, it is Luke who provides the basis for the classic understanding of the Virgin Mary. Luke gives Mary a voice to accept God’s totally insane plan for her to bring forth God’s child. I believe Mary’s meditation is meant to be something more than a small sidebar for the manger madness. So what does her response to the shepherds tidings of great joy tell us? What does it mean for us now as we hear this good news again, in the midst of hubbub and chaos of the season?
In a meeting with some infinitely wise young people after the first Sunday in advent I asked the question, “what are you hopeful for this advent season?”. I was intent on inspiring these young people to think about hope and its implications as we waited for Christmas. After giving a very thoughtful yet unexpected answer, one youth return the question to me, “ What are you hopeful for this Advent season?” I paused. I racked my brain for the right answer, one that would be profound and inspirational. Then I realized, I didn’t have that answer, or any answer for that matter. I had been so busy rejoicing that I forgot to reflect. Had I proffered one too many Merry Christmas’s without really thinking about what blessing I was sending forth? I had somehow myself with so many Christmas traditions that I had ignored the still small voice of the baby Jesus. I was so wrapped up in what I was supposed to be doing that I forgot to take time to reflect, and understand the joy I was professing.
To preach joy without feeling it, to teach faith without believing it, these are signs of hypocrisy and Jesus was no friend to the hypocrite. So perhaps on the night of his birth, Jesus’ mother was showing me a wise and daring way to avoid being hypocrites while more fully understanding and owning my own joy.
I have much to celebrate in the birth of Jesus, in the life of Jesus, and the his death and resurrection, but before I celebrate outwardly, I must reflect inwardly. I like to think that Mary eventually joined in the wild manger birthday party, but first she reflected, and she prayed. Mary didn’t do what was traditional or easy, but she made sure that when she sang of the arrival of the Jesus her words would reflect a deep inner understanding of the gifts God gave the world through Jesus.
So on this still winter night, despite the rustling wrapping paper and the familiar chorus of carols, apart from all of the traditions of this season, may each of us find a moment of quiet where we can behold the many joys of this season, and this year, reflect upon them.