During this Christmas season, as we’re going about our shopping, planning and traveling, let’s take a moment to consider the reason for the season: Jesus. Whenever you have a moment this month, I encourage you to read the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke chapters 1-2. I recently read through these passages and was inspired by Mary the mother of Jesus. Today, I thought I’d share with you three lessons I learned from Mary in the story of Jesus’ birth.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.Luke 2:19
Lesson from Mary #1: She chose her focus
As a virgin mother of the newborn Son of God, there was a lot Mary could have focused on. She could’ve been concerned with where her son would sleep, how she could recover from labor and delivery ( in a barn!), what God was going to do next, and so much more. For those of us who have recently had newborns, it’s easy to recall those early difficulties: the shocking pain of delivery, the hardships of learning to breastfeed, the doubts that your body will ever be functional again. I’m sure Mary had all of this and far more than we have today – plus, oh yeah, she was holding the Son of God, in a barn, with a bunch of stinky shepherds showing up wanting to see what was going on!
And we cringe when Aunt Bertha doesn’t sanitize up to the elbows when she picks up our newborn!
Yet…that’s not what Mary was focused on.
In this simple line, I see how Mary was quiet. I’m reminded of the verse in Psalm 131:2 where the psalmist says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.” Mary could have let her mind go a million miles an hour, but instead she quieted herself and was able to be present enough to take in what was going on around her.
Mamas, this is something we should take note of. Sometimes we are so caught up in all of our concerns and worries that we’re missing what’s going on in that moment.
Mary could have made note of all the ‘negative’ things going on – but she didn’t. She treasured up the incredible experience she was living.
We should follow her example.
Let’s be honest, some of us could find flaws in Mother Theresa. We’d be discontent no matter where we were or what we were doing.
If you were holding the Savior in your arms, what would your attitude be? Would it be one of faultfinding, dissatisfaction, restlessness – or would it be one of quiet contentment?
Here’s the thing, mamas: if you are a Christian with the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you do have the Savior. You are holding Him inside of you, taking Him with you wherever you go.
So, are you treasuring up the little (or big!) moments with your Savior? Or are you fraught with worry, envy, strife, and discontentment?
We have a choice in this. We can choose to focus on the small, sacred moments throughout even the most difficult days, or we can choose to focus on anything and everything else.
Mary’s peaceful attitude is a challenge to us all.
I’m preaching to myself on this one. This past week was a difficult week physically and emotionally. I was in pain and felt frustrated and useless.
I wonder how my week would’ve been different if I’d been aware of the Savior with me, if I’d been focused on treasuring those moments with Him and with my family.
I may not be able to go back and change anything about last week, but I can do something about today.
Today, I choose to quiet myself.
Today, I choose to be present.
Today, I choose to treasure up the good moments, even in the midst of chaos.
Lesson from Mary #2: She withheld hasty judgment
What’s interesting to me about Mary is that she treasured these experiences in her heart, but then she “pondered” them. This word in the Greek is symballousa and it can mean “to converse, consult, dispute, to consider.” This gives the impression that she mulled over these events, perhaps even debated in her mind whether they were good or bad. But, the thing that I like about Mary’s reaction is that she wasn’t quick to judge or decide what God was doing here.
Sometimes, we are so quick to decide if something is “good” or “bad.”
We get a bonus at work. This is “good.”
We get pulled over and get an expensive speeding ticket. This is “bad.”
But something that I’m learning is that things are not always so black-and-white, cut-and-dry. A quick glance at the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 or Luke 6:20-26 shows us that what we should value (and what God values) is different than what the world values – that even poverty, hunger, sadness, and persecution viewed from a godly lens are not all “bad.”
I’m reminded of the story of Joseph in the Old Testament: his brothers sold him into slavery, and then, just as he was moving up in the ranks, he is falsely accused by his master’s wife and gets thrown in prison! Eventually, he is released and becomes second in command in all of Egypt. We could go through his story and say, “this part is good,” or “this part is bad,” but look what Joseph says to his brothers when he is reunited with them years after they sold him into slavery:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.Genesis 50:20
We don’t know what God is accomplishing through the “good” and “bad” moments of our lives. So let’s withhold judgment and trust that He IS working – and that He’s working for our overall good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
This idea leads to my favorite lesson from Mary:
Lesson from Mary #3: She had a quiet, trustful faith
One of the interesting pieces in the story of Jesus’ birth is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel compared to Zachariah’s response in Luke 1. The angel told both of them that they would have a child in a miraculous way – Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, would have her womb miraculously opened and give birth to a child in her old age. And Mary would become pregnant supernaturally through the Holy Spirit.
What’s interesting to me is that they seem to respond in the same way, and yet the angel Gabriel treats their responses differently.
Luke 1:18 says: “And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.'”
Then, a few verses down in Luke 1:34, after Gabriel talks to Mary, it says: ” And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?'”
So they both seem to respond in the same way: How will this happen?
And yet Gabriel makes Zechariah mute for his lack of faith whereas he explains himself to Mary and reassures her!
We can’t know for sure why this is, but my guess is that Zechariah’s heart was different than Mary’s heart.
Yes, she was confused. Yes, she had questions. Yes, she didn’t know how God would accomplish what He said.
But Gabriel’s response indicates to me that he knew Mary’s heart was trusting in God – that she had faith, even in her questioning. And, ultimately, Mary’s final reply to the angel tells us that she entrusted herself to God’s plan:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”Luke 1:38
Mary’s response inspires and challenges me. It makes me think that in hardships or trials, I can question what God is doing. It’s okay to be confused, it’s okay to wonder what God’s plan is – but I need to make sure that my heart gets to the place that Mary’s heart was. I need to be able to say: “I am the Lord’s servant. Your will be done.”
So, mamas, as we go through this season, let’s consider Mary’s example and imitate her focus and her faith. And, in all things, let’s glorify Jesus as our Lord and Savior – during this Christmas season and beyond.