Holy Everything: Hold the Christmas story in your heart and mind

December 23, 2018

Wondrous realities deserve to be pondered and treasured. This is just what Mary does throughout the story of Jesus’ birth. Taking time to reflect on the words and experiences of Mary is a meaningful way to encounter the Christmas narrative. For this year’s “Holy Everything” Christmas column, let’s accompany Mary as she makes her way to Bethlehem.

The Gospel of Luke is the third book of the New Testament. It’s the gospel where we read the most detailed of the narratives of Jesus’ birth. Gabriel the Angel shows up to tell Mary she’s going have a baby. Then, the angel adds that the youngster will (quite shockingly) be the son of God.

Gabriel says to Mary, “The Lord is with you.” The promise that God is with her compels Mary to respond to the angel’s news with the words, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Right away Mary heads out to see her cousin, Elizabeth, and she stays for three months. Mary, ever-wise, recognizes that she needs the unconditional love and support of someone who can support her during what must have been a surprising and confusing time.

While visiting Elizabeth, Mary takes time to reflect on the nature of God. She ponders where her baby will fit into the story of God’s work in the world. As Mary ponders the new reality coming to fruition in her very body, she describes truths about God (Luke 1:46-56). Maybe recounting God’s powerful acts of justice in the past was a way for Mary to remind herself that whatever God was doing through the birth of her son, it would be something world-altering. She describes:

• God has scattered the proud with the thoughts of their hearts

• God has brought down the powerful from their thrones

• God has lifted up the lowly

• God has filled the hungry with good things

• God has sent the rich away empty

Mary trusted that her son would be a continuation of God’s ongoing commitment to a more equitable, compassionate world.

Fast-forward six months, and it’s time for Mary to have Jesus. She and Joseph are in Bethlehem at the time. Angels show up to tell some local shepherds that the Messiah has been born. The shepherds find Mary, Joseph and the new baby. They rejoice and describe all that they’ve seen and heard from the angels.

Luke’s gospel tells us that Mary “treasured all these words” and pondered them in her heart.

Syntereo is the Greek word that Luke originally used in telling the story. Syntereo means “to preserve” and “to hold in one’s mind as not to be forgotten.” As Mary watched it all unfold, she took time to preserve all the details of the experience in her mind’s eye.

Christmas is our collective opportunity to rejoice like the shepherds; it’s also our chance to syntereo like Mary. We get to preserve this story and hold it in our minds. We give thanks for this annual opportunity to remember together that God sought fit to dwell among us, and God did so in Jesus.

As you approach the sacred days ahead, make space to syntereo. Hold the story in your heart and mind. Ponder it. Pray and recount all the ways God has been at work in your life and in our world over the past year.

God is with us. What a wonder! Let us rejoice and ponder together this everlasting good news.

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