Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Amid the Clamor
Luke’s Nativity narrative is far and away the most vivid account we have, so much so, it reads more like opera than history. His structural and descriptive talents serve him well as he moves from intensely private passages to sweeping events. One minute the stage is empty save one or two characters, the next it’s filled to capacity. Indeed, Luke encourages us to envision his story as opera by having his characters break into song. He actually composes arias for Mary and Zechariah, as well as an immortal angel chorus. Even when summarizing scenes, there’s music in the air. For example, he tells us the shepherds left the stable spreading the news of their experience and returned to their flocks “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” (Luke 2.20)
Amid the clamor and excitement of the shepherds, Luke pauses for a gentle recitative as Mary ponders what’s taken place, gathering her memories as treasures of the heart. While the rest of Luke’s version is thrillingly dramatic in scale with the arrival of the King of kings, Mary’s quiet introspection strikes me as its finest moment. The sudden contrast of divine grandeur with human emotion is overwhelming. Yet I think Luke includes it for a reason beyond adding pathos. Mary’s example teaches us not to get so caught up in our personal dramas that we don’t step back to appreciate God’s faithfulness and handiwork in our lives.
Psalm 77.11 reads, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” This comes in response to the Psalmist’s feeling isolated from God and inundated with trials. He struggles to find God in his circumstances, to lean confidently on His promise of unfailing love and mercy. But confusion and fear temporarily blind him to God’s presence. “Then I thought…” he writes, shifting his attention from current conditions to past triumphs when God intervened on behalf of His people in mighty, unexpected, and unprecedented ways.
Memory matters. If we become too captivated by living “in the moment” to remember God’s love and kindness for us yesterday, we risk losing assurance we need to overcome problems we face today. By the same token, memories that strengthen our courage won’t be available to us unless we take the time to store them in our hearts immediately after they happen, which is precisely what Mary did. One can’t help but imagine, as she stood at the foot of the cross 33 years later, her mind didn’t return to Bethlehem, where she witnessed God’s promises literally come to life. First-hand knowledge of His power then surely bolstered her faith that He would honor His promise to restore her Son’s life now.
David stressed the importance of remembering God’s goodness in Psalm 103.2: “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” And what had God done for David? He attaches a long list that includes forgiveness, healing, redemption, love and compassion, satisfied desires, renewed vigor, and justice. These weren’t general attributes ascribed to God; they were actualities David recalled from his past. They were easily accessible because he’d treasured them up in his heart and consistently pondered them. God has done so many marvelous things for us it’s essential we don’t forget one of them. In the toss and tumble of everyday life, we must always remember to remember all His benefits.
We must remember to remember all the marvelous things God has done for us.
(Tomorrow: God With Us)