Letter from the Director – December 2021
THE THINGS IN MARY’S HEART
I’ve always liked the way in which the Gospel writer Luke concludes his version of the Christmas story by telling us that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2: 19). I have often wondered, What are the things that Mary kept and pondered in her heart? Luke does not tell us, though Mary might have told Luke. But we can speculate.
- How much she loved and appreciated Joseph
The first thing that Mary must have kept and pondered in her heart was how much she loved and appreciated Joseph. For it had not been easy for Joseph. And Mary knew it.
What kind of man was Joseph? Even when Joseph thought that Mary had done him a great wrong, still he had no desire to punish – or even kill – or humiliate her. Rather he intended to break off their engagement quietly. Joseph had an inner strength that Mary certainly must have admired.
In the Jewish home it was the father who had primary responsibility for the religious instruction of the children. Luke tells us that at the age of twelve Jesus impressed the teachers in the Temple with His knowledge of the Scriptures. Joseph must have done his job very, very well.
Jesus told about a Heavenly Father who will not hold back any good things from His beloved children. Joseph must have been that kind of an earthly father. No wonder Mary loved him so much.
I think of my own life partner, Terry, and how much I love and appreciate her. We were married for thirty-two of the forty years that I served as pastor of a congregation. She was always so supportive of and involved in my ministry. She is a model of Christian faith and service. Even now, in retirement, she continues to be involved in ministry. She has a tremendously giving heart. Christmas is a time to stop and think about how much our families and friends mean to us, what it was about our marriage partner that first attracted us to him or her, and what it is that we most love and appreciate about them.
- The mystery of the birth of her child
And then a second thing that Mary must have kept and pondered in her heart was the mystery of the birth of her child. Somebody once said, How could there possibly be an atheist in a maternity ward? How could any mother ever hold her newborn infant in her arms for the first time and not feel that something sacred has just happened?
I often wonder if whoever turned Mary and Joseph away from the inn that night would have responded differently if he or she had known who they were. Or, even more importantly, if he or she had known who was about to be born. But it did not happen that way. The Son of God was born in a cave.
And so during this Christmas season may we ponder the miracle of birth. The miracle of Jesus’ birth, the miracle of our birth, and the miracle of our rebirth. Let us wonder at and glory in the Good News that the God of all creation values each and every one of us as His own dear, beloved child. We are all somebody of great importance to Him.
- The strangeness and unexpectedness of the whole thing
And then a third thing that Mary must have kept and pondered in her heart was the strangeness and unexpectedness of the whole thing.
Except for some shepherds, there is no indication that anyone in Bethlehem knew what was happening that night. No suggestion that anyone in Jerusalem, only a few miles away, took any notice of the event. Sure, sometime later, there were a few astrologers from the East who saw an unusually bright star and then followed that star until it came to rest over the house where the young child lay. Except for some shepherds, for the rest of the world, it was a night like all other nights.
For Mary it might all have been a blur. The visit from the angel nine months before. The joy of her cousin Elizabeth, when she recognized that Mary would bear the Messiah. The cruel, uncaring political events that had forced her and Joseph to go to Bethlehem – and at the most inconvenient of times. What was she – a young peasant girl – probably only about thirteen or fourteen years of age – to make of all of this?
As the smell of the straw, the sounds of the animals, and the crudeness of the manger bed filled her senses, Mary must have been wondering about the meaning of it all. Could the King of kings really be born in a cave?
But doesn’t God often work in that way – in the most unexpected of ways? When has God come into your life and/or worked in and through your life when you least expected it and in ways that you never would have imagined?
- The presence of God
And then, fourth, on this most Holy of Nights, Mary must have been most deeply conscious of the presence of God. For here was God’s own, dear Son lying before her.
How do you think Mary felt as she gazed upon her new-born Child? Like at no other time in her life, God must have felt very, very real and very, very close to her.
When has been the time in your life when God felt the most real and the most near to you? My hope and prayer for you is that God will feel very real, very near, and very close to you during this Christmas season. In the joy and love of family life. In the warmth and beauty of Christmas carols. In worship and fellowship with other believers.
Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. My hope and prayer for you is that during this Christmas season you will experience many things that you will treasure, keep, and ponder in your heart. Things like the love and loyalty of those closest to you. The magic and mystery and miracle of human life. The way in which God sometimes works in ways we would never expect. And the presence of God. All these things are more than enough to fill our hearts to overflowing this Christmas season with love and joy and peace and hope and goodwill.
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VIDEO BOOK REVIEW – “A PLACE FOR TRUTH” – EDITED BY DALLAS WILLARD
Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance. Many thanks to ELCA Pastor Kevin Haug for giving us a review of a book edited by Dallas Willard, A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life’s Hardest Questions. According to Pastor Haug, this is a book that encourages some really deep thinking. Its primary audience would be Christians who are dealing with some of the really big questions in life, such as why are we here, does God exist, and what is the role and purpose of suffering. It would also be of interest to non-believers who would be curious about a Christianity which takes the authority of the Bible seriously while also taking science, reason, and logic seriously.
The book is a series of fifteen lectures compiled by Dallas Willard. These lectures were delivered as part of the Veritas Forum, a movement which seeks for truth and seeks to apply truth to a university setting. Lectures cover such topics as truth in relation to post-modernism, an examination of the exclusive claims to truth of Christianity, human DNA as evidence for a creator, and a psychological study of why some people may be atheists.
Pastor Haug commented regarding the book, “I found it to be very intellectually stimulating and satisfying. If you have a high regard for the authority of Scripture and a high regard for reason, logic, and science, if that is you, this book is for you.”
This review, as well as eleven others, have been posted on our YouTube channel. A link to the channel can be found here.
Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE