Sometimes if I am looking for something on our external hard drive where we store all our family photos I will be side-tracked by some folders containing baby photos of our children. And I will take a long walk as they say, down memory lane.
All of a sudden the memories will come flooding back: Things that are still there in my memory but not often visited. These are pictures that remind me of our first married home, of the knowledge that we were going to be parents for the first time, the urgent 1am trip 104 kilometres to the hospital in the town of Loxton, the kangaroo we almost hit 20klm short of the hospital when Jacob was born, the 40 degree day and the full moon I remember staring at while sitting in the car ringing parents and siblings to tell them that our child was born.
I am reminded of almost not making it to the hospital that we only lived 15 minutes away from with Isabella. The baby photos and the first teeth and the birthdays, and I look through the photos and for a while I feel sad, a deep sense of longing for times gone past, because those times are gone, and they will never be again. They have gone so quickly. And I think about those times. Life was good. In some ways it seemed so much simpler then. We were starting some big adventures.
But then I need to make conscious effort every time to rouse myself from that sadness, and instead I feel a real tenderness in my heart because even though those times are gone, they were our times, and we had them, together. They are blessings to us, each moment, each memory. And sadness will not help. Because being sad might stop me living the next moment that is coming. And they are too fleeting to miss. Life is for the living.
Sometimes I love to go through those old photos. Maybe you like to do the same thing now and then. And if you do, then maybe like me, you will resonate with this little sentence from the reading for today: It goes like this: 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
With no photographs in that time, she had only her memories and her deep thoughts to ponder. And she seems like a young woman of deep thought. It must have been important for her to do that, as there were a lot of things going on around her: travelling, ruling, counting, riding, walking, watching, singing, birthing, loving, hurrying to see, worshipping, returning, praising, following, and Mary had time for treasuring and pondering?
Now Luke, who wrote this Gospel, was not there when Jesus was born. He wrote the gospel after the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. So how did he know that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart?
There is a fair bit of evidence that Mary, the mother of Our Lord was a pretty important figure in the life of the early church after the time of Jesus. So I wonder if Luke, or the source that much of the Lukan material comes from, used the story passed down from Mary herself. I think there would have been times when the early faithful, gathered around in the fledgling church, might have asked “Mother Mary, tell us again about the birth of Jesus”
And she would have remembered: there was so much happening, but in the midst of all that was going on, I treasured all these things, and really thought a lot about what they all meant. You could even say I pondered them in my heart”
I like this detail about the Christmas story because it is so easy to get caught up in all the events of Christmas, and to NOT take the time to be intentional in treasuring all that happens.
So today/tomorrow, when you are with family, if you have a moment in the midst of mowing, driving, sweeping, mopping, wrapping, unwrapping, dressing, chilling, roasting, carving, pouring, greeting, hugging, eating, drinking, posing, disciplining, serving, washing, drying, listening, talking, arranging, organising, cleaning, packing (gasp) for things to go quiet: then stop, take a look around, and don’t let this Christmas pass you by in a way that you will not remember it. Treasure all these things in your heart, the love of family, the joy of togetherness, the pleasant fullness of a Christmas lunch, and the knowledge of a saviour made one of us, and ponder on them for a moment, ponder on what it all means, ponder on why we are celebrating. Ponder on the blessings that have changed your life, because of this baby born in the midst of so much busyness.
And Parents, when you have a chance, go back and ponder the early times. Look at your photos, whether they are albums or hard drives, and realise the gifts your children are to you, and ponder on the fact that God has a plan for them, even if you can not see what it is.
And kids, maybe sometime ask your mum and dad to take you back through those photos, and to tell you some of the memories associated with some of them, their hopes and dreams for you at those times, and realise the gifts that they, your parents are to you.
Of all the gifts you get this Christmas, that just might be the greatest one.
Except for Jesus. The time of his birth was over 2000 years ago, but this is no image frozen in time like a still photo. Concentrating on the birth of Jesus today is not just an exercise in looking back, but it is about not wanting to miss what we know is coming.
The next instalment in the adventure awaits. Jesus is coming back. That’s the meaning of the birth of Jesus.
God’s plan to save the world broke into the time and space of a young girl and her betrothed. But these are our times. They are for us. Take a moment to ponder on that this Christmas.
Peace be with you. Heavenly Peace.