Many years ago, as part of an educational requirement, I had to memorize the Christmas story from Luke 2. You may recall that it is part of this passage that Linus gets up and recites during A Charlie Brown Christmas:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people…And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.'”
Perhaps you are wondering if I remembered to replace my calendar. Why am I writing about Christmas when we are a few weeks into a new year and the calendar page should read “January”?
I’m getting there.
As I lay in bed this morning, like almost every morning, my brain trying to send the right signals to my body to move so the day can be started, my mind was filled with a plethora of thoughts that all revolved around the previous week. I thought about my son and how he would be making his commute to work today from his new apartment instead of from our home. I thought about the fact that I would go downstairs today but would not be greeted by a little ball of black fur named Lily sitting atop the couch my son had placed in our family room for the time he was here. I would not be cooking dinner tonight for three; instead, we are back to just the two of us–empty-nesters once again. My mind quickly shifted gears to the realization that six weeks from today, my husband and I will also be waking up in a new place. His commute will also be much shorter. The task that is in front of me–that of packing what we are taking and packing what we are not and trying to decide what goes in which category–loomed large in my mind and caused me to pull the covers a little tighter around my neck almost in defiance of rising for the day. I thought of the emotional toll that has already occurred as I have gone thorough photographs and toys and boxes that were placed in a basement store room and forgotten. That same son who moved yesterday, who will be getting married to a wonderfully sweet young woman in a few months, lives in pictures as a feisty two year old with soft brown hair and eye lashes that a grown woman would die for.
And that’s when my mind went back to the Christmas story memorized over thirty years ago. One verse kept replaying over and over in my mind. It came at the end of the required memorization and it said:
“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
As a child, I memorized and recited the words on cue, but I did not really understand most of what I was reciting. Oh, I knew what shepherds in a field meant, and I understood that Mary was having a baby and that baby was Jesus. But some of the words and sentences didn’t really make sense to me. The above is one of them. What did it mean to ponder something in your heart. And, what were all these things Mary was pondering in there? This morning, thirty+ years after memorizing the words, I think I understood what the writer meant by them. Mary, this young girl, newly wed to Joseph, traveling while nine months pregnant, giving birth in a barn that would normally house animals, and becoming the mom of not just a regular son but the Son of God, probably had so much on her mind. Her first experience as a mom was being given charge of the Savior of the world. Her son would die at a young age–willingly–so that she and any others who believed could live eternally. I wonder what her thoughts were as she remembered what the angel had told her and reflected on the road ahead of her. We aren’t told how Mary felt about the events of her life nor what she thought about all that had happened or would happen. Mary pondered them in her heart–she kept her thoughts private.
In the course of the next five weeks, I am going to be reminded of the past twenty-seven years. Boxes will hold cards commemorating happy events such as new babies and Christmas’ as well as cards that will stir sorrow over loss or illness. I have already taken an emotional hit with some of the findings in boxes that have been sealed and put away. I expect the roller coaster of emotions that will be faced in the days ahead will have the force of strength to knock me off my feet and find me wanting to crawl into a cave somewhere and hide.
In this world of twenty-first century technology it is so easy to let the world in on everything that is happening in our lives. I am probably chief of the guilty in this area. Too often I have posted on Facebook or Twitter without thinking that these thoughts, once I click on “Submit” have been put out into the vast world of cyberspace for all to see. This morning, I believe, God was nudging me in a different direction. As Luke 2:19 replayed in my head, I believe God was telling me that as I go through the next five weeks, there will be many feelings stirred–memories triggered by pictures or notes. Rather than go the usual route of venting my emotions via technology, I should instead ponder them in my heart. Maybe instead of turning to a keyboard in hopes of easing some emotional turmoil, I should go to the God who created me. No Facebook friend or Twitter follower can heal, calm, or reassure like Jesus can. That said, I do believe God has placed people in my life who can understand and encourage when the emotions are so overwhelming that I just want to stop living. (I was at that place just a few days ago. An e-mail sent to a trusted person in my life brought an encouraging response that helped me put the events that led to that despair in perspective) But not everyone on my Facebook friends list can or even is willing to be put in that position.
My heart, over the next several months, will be full. A move, a baby shower, a wedding shower, a wedding, and a grandson will all happen by the end of the next twelve weeks. And those are the events I know of. I don’t know what else the next twelve weeks may hold. The roller coaster ride could get downright scary even for a thrill seeker like me. I expect emotions to run high and stamina to run low. I hope I can find a balance between shutting everyone out completely and letting people in too much as I ponder all these things in my heart.