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On this Christmas Eve day as I prepare for some last-minute mayhem at some stores–and following my being out yesterday to get new tires on my car only to see quarter-mile-long traffic line-ups at most every red light–a very brief reflection on the spot of quiet we find in Luke 2:19.
The truth is Luke 2–and its 81-verse preceding chapter as well–is fairly busy, too. Lots going on in these two chapters, both in heaven and on earth. By the time Luke 2 opens, we see the whole world scurrying about to fulfill Caesar’s command. Bethlehem is crowded to overflowing–and probably plenty noisy, too, with so many people, children, and animals around–and even the peace of the night is shattered when angels appear to some shepherds who were drowsing out in the fields by night.
It’s busy and noisy here in Luke 2.
Except for verse 19: But Mary pondered these things and treasured them in her heart.
The sense of some of the key Greek words there is really more akin to say that Mary was clutching at the events swirling around her–she’s clutching at them with what post-partum strength she can muster. And once she grabs hold of a few of those “things,” she did not so much “treasure” them as tried to puzzle them out, piece them together, figure out how this could all fit into a coherent picture of her life. The shepherds are chattering around her and soon leave, belting out a song of glory that will amaze all who hear them.
But Mary . . . Mary in verse 19 is off in the corner puzzling it all out. Mary is our reminder that for all the loud celebrations and noisy shopping malls and clogged traffic that characterize Christmas for so many of us now, at the center of it all is a mystery worthy of not just quiet reflection but fierce determination to see the bigger picture. Christmas is a story any child can understand but it’s also a cosmic tale of striking beauty and profound depths. No one should claim to have it cased.
As we enter this week’s celebrations again, we look to Mary–quiet, reflective, confused, and consternated. For Mary it’s only the beginning of all that, as an old man named Simeon will tell her in about a month’s time. But for the rest of us, it’s a reminder that if we’ve not puzzled over these things of late on the assumption we know what it all means, it’s not too late to start.
Merry Christmas and Joyous Ponderings!