Luke 2:8-19 Amplified
…, 18 and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart.
Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent. Traditionally the theme is joy - and we will feel that, I think, as we look at Mary (Jesus’s mom) - a kind of December Christmas message and, I hope, a new inspiration.
Today's passage is a snapshot of a story so familiar we are at risk of missing a lot of what is there- like much we know too well in the Bible. Today I want to focus on these 2 passages in particular:
Luke 2:18 and 19 - from the amplified:
18 and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart.
Many stories in the Bible can feel or seem very cool but almost foreign- like many of the stories we love but - the idea of applying them to our own lives can feel awkward or even sacrilegious- I mean who am I?! I'm no Mary or Joseph and certainly no Jesus!
But here's a truth- Jesus is literally our model and the men and women of the Bible are there for us, to learn from for our today- as it says in Romans 15:4:
4For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.
So, I personally feel convicted - not condemned- condemned -that’s of the devil and a great next message- conviction is what the Holy Spirit does, and condemnation is from the enemy- so what this means is- I need to stop and reflect and repent - meaning change direction- but it’s the Holy spirit helping me.
I would like this to convict us all if you're willing. So, let's look at this story more closely and try to think afresh about it all.
Mary was a human and we can guess that based on the Bible and all the Bible greats- all had their humanity and it's a wonder to me and a great encouragement that we get that shown to us as much as all the cool stuff we read. So here is this young woman about to get married and wow- what a story!
And then we have the shepherds. We can imagine blue collar guys and then the so- called wise men- educated, rich kids or such- and God is sending angels and it must have been amazing. I mean the shepherds retell their stories there in Luke 18 and we can easily imagine why and how people wondered- "Say what??! Wow- that's amazing!"Here is the key contrast I see in this passage- it says:
BUT MARY, but Mary, "But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart."
I would like to make the case for treasuring and pondering and not just wondering. Are we doing enough pondering? - giving careful thought to, as some translations word this passage, meditating on them (Holman Christian standard) thinking deeply about them (Good news) pondering in her heart (Young's literal)
(And plug here for BibleHub and Bible Gateway again- free, easy, can go super deep - like one passage and 29 translations and then the original! Nice)
Years ago, Kelly and I had what I would call an extreme experience even for us with God. There was a small women's bible study on Rokko island and Kelly had gone with one of our friends to ask for prayer and it also sounded fun- one of our neighbors from China, a woman named “Min”, who was new to Japan attended- her husband was with Motorola so they had just come from Texas but were raised in Shanghai and spoke pretty broken English.
So, this group had about 10 women: half Japanese and a hand full of others from places like Min from China. That week there was a friend of the house owners, named Yokota-san, and she was Japanese but had moved to Hawaii but spoke little English and no other languages. She had a reputation for powerful prayer and so they called me too- you should come get prayer! So, I shot over at lunch.
Looking back many parts of this whole thing were funny. I came in and was trying to be Japanese and slow my pace a little and be reserved and she- this Japanese woman from Hawaii- sort of roughly said sit down and I will pray- no small talk or formalities! As soon as she started to pray it was unusual-
I come from a church tradition where people speak in tongues and I am good with that- I don't love it- I mean it feels sort of personal but that’s just me- anyway, this was not like what I had seen or heard before- this totally sounded like Chinese.
I need to say this the right way but...Chinese is one funky language! I mean it is so foreign and weird to me- so tonal and up and down and just different- and I feel like it’s easy to recognize- but I don't speak it, but she sure sounded like she was praying in fluent Chinese! After about 10 minutes of very aerobic- I mean intense prayer- she was sweating and really worked up- it was intense- even her hand on my head felt intense. I was like whew- well, wow, thanks!
Now here's the trippy part and, of course this could be a longer story, but let me try to limit this version for you today- she HAD spoken in Chinese and our neighbor had tried as hard as she could to write down what she had said- turns out she had spoken in our neighbor Min’s dialect - and what she had said were mostly phrases she had repeated - which...as it started to unfold turned out to be mostly FIVE scriptures- which we then looked up in Min's Chinese Bible and most were word for word character for character what Min wrote down from what Yokota-san had said.
Wow. Ok, so that is something to make me wonder- wonder and say wow. BUT here is why I chose that story today- I mean it's cool and God is that big and does cool stuff today- lots of reasons to share that story but this is more of a confession...
I need to confess that I have had and have always had mixed feelings about these kinds of things. I always worry if they - the cool things- will distract or attract- pull us closer to God or make us just want more cool stories. I still feel that way!
BUT how stupid would it be if someone told you this story and forgot what was said- I mean- what did God say to you...in Chinese...through the Japanese woman, with help from the Chinese woman- what was the message!? And one might ask...what did it mean for you? Did you ponder these passages? Do you carry them with you perhaps?
I mean you tell me you got a personal letter from the president of the United states- and that could be so cool we just stop there and forget to ask, by the way...what did he say and why did he write to you?!!
Yes, this is a good approach and I confess- for the first few years- yes, years, I just felt touched that God saw us; that he cared and was reaching out; that we lived in a time where we saw this kind of thing often enough and it gave me great comfort to know- God is not distant but close. What I did not do till years later was ponder the verses. I now DO Carry them with me- (just like my $100 bill which is ready to find a home.) But I almost missed the depth and power of what I had received.
Kelly and I are very happy to say and feel fortunate and blessed to have tons of stories similar to this one- this is extreme though even for us- but when tough times come- boring times- days when life feels hard and things are tough- man, those are times when we need to pull out our treasures!
Our moments with God are our treasures
Thinking about Mary...the mother of Jesus Mary, and the angels who visited and all the people who came by and then - suddenly Joseph gets a new angelic visit and is told in
Now when they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you; for Herod intends to search for the Child in order to destroy Him.”
and he did!
Right away- it says:
v14 “So, Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt.”
Good man! I pray we all obey like that! So, God was close and sent angels and it was cool, but he fled- God told them too and life went on and Jesus disappeared for 3 days while still a kid- you remember that story right and Mary held onto the words she had been told and must have wondered as it had not all been spelled out at all- just the big picture but not the details!
Ok, so about 3 weeks ago, on a Sunday morning Kelly and I went down to my car in the garage and I felt a sudden sense of faith and frustrationsome kind of mix- and I prayed for my car radio- with Kelly - just before we got in the car.
My radio has been broken since I inherited the car from my Dad 8 years ago. I had prayed before for it to come on and it had - out of nowhere the day I had prayed but then it had stopped again. So today I prayed with Kelly- I pray my radio comes back on I said. We drove around, came home and I went back out and ...that day..within hours of praying. the radio suddenly came back on- yup no kidding.
I brought Kelly down- it was like some part of me was just feeling fed up- stupid cancer and losing my hearing and the businesses ending and ...just fed up and I prayed for ...the radio..yea, well, hard to explain.
Ok, so I was excited and told all the girls and a few brothers or sisters- prayer works! Get fed up! Don't just let life happen! Cool. And then 3 days later on the way to work it stopped again and I had a moment. It stopped and at that moment I felt like God said,
This was just a sign not an answer. Don't stop at the sign.
I pondered this one- what are you saying? what does this mean? I felt like God answered me more in my pondering.
What do you really want? Do you even care if the radio works?
Which I don't at all- I use my iPhone and its fine- I don't care about the radio but I prayed for it because it had reminded me of the power of prayer from a couple of years ago when I had prayed- it was a sign- that was it- I almost stopped at the sign because it’s a great story but there's more- there was more for Mary- there is more for you and each of us.
I would hope and guess most of you have had a God moment or sign or miracle of some type- maybe not as dramatic or funny as some I tell but...a verse you could feel God popped out at you or a word from someone which was weirdly the right word for that moment- think back-
You have at least one and the challenge I have for you is this: What else is there? What does the sign point to? ...or to whom? Don't stop at the sign- wondering is natural but pondering is our stretch to touch God and get all He has for us-
I could go a lot longer on this but that’s it- time is up so come join us for Sunday School at 1030 – Japanese or English- let’s talk about this some more. How well do we ponder God’s words and moments? It tells us Mary treasured the words she got- good example- God moments and God’s words ARE our treasure, and we should carry them with us.