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On Faith: Listening with Heart

Jesus’ Mother, Mary, Ponders and Treasures his Words

By By Rev. Deirdre Eckian
December 2013

So they [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:16-19)

Many of us will hear these Bible verses on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. When I read the story of Jesus’ birth recently, what stood out to me was not the journey to Bethlehem or the birth of Jesus in such humble conditions, but rather the response of Jesus' mother to the shepherds' announcement of who Jesus is.

Mary gives birth to her first son and wraps him in bands of cloth, and, finding no other suitable crib for Jesus, lays him in a dusty manger. Then, shepherds appear to visit her son and proclaim to Mary and Joseph what the angels have told them.  "... to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:11).  "... and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:18-19).

Scripture singles out Mary's response and suggests that there is something special about her understanding of who her son is. We see that Mary's special attention to Jesus puts her in an important role throughout his life. During Jesus' childhood, Mary scolds Jesus for wandering away in Jerusalem during the Passover festival. Jesus tells his parents that he must be in his Father’s house, the temple. We are told that Mary heard Jesus' response, and rather than being angry, again she "treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:48-51).

Jesus' identity as the Son of God and bearer of good news is emerging, and Mary seems to at least partially understand what this means. Although Mary has a low profile during Jesus' years of ministry in Galilee, she reappears in Jerusalem at the foot of the cross. Mary has the courage to stand with the other women near the cross and be with Jesus as he faces his death (John 19:25-26).

In pondering and treasuring the words spoken about and by Jesus, Mary found the faith to support Jesus in his life and to follow Jesus to his crucifixion. During the season of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let us also celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her example. Like Mary, may we listen closely to Jesus and be transformed by his words to love boldly, serve others, and work for justice.

Rev. Deirdre Eckian serves as assistant to the rector at Christ (Episcopal) Church, Washington, D.C.

Photo: A Guatemalan woman holds her daughter. (Margaret W. Nea)

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