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LUKE 2:22-38 | OF MARY’S HEART

“OF MARY’S HEART”

LUKE 2:22-38

DECEMBER 27, 2015

 

WHEN THE ANGEL GABRIEL ANNOUNCED TO MARY THAT SHE WOULD BE A MOTHER, THAT THE CHILD WOULD BE GOD’S CHILD, AND THAT SHE WAS TO NAME THE CHILD JESUS, WE ARE TOLD SHE WAS “PERPLEXED AND PONDERED WHAT ALL OF THIS MEANT IN HER HEART.”

 

WHEN THE SHEPHERDS ARRIVED TO WORSHIP BABY JESUS AND TOLD MARY OF ALL THEY HAD SEEN AND HEARD, AND ABOUT A SKY FULL OF ANGELS, AND SONGS FROM THE HEAVENLY HOSTS, AND HOW THEY WERE COMPELLED TO COME AND FIND HER AND HER CHILD FOR THEMSELVES –

 

WE ARE TOLD THAT MARY “TREASURED ALL THESE WORDS AND PONDERED THEM IN HER HEART.”

 

WHEN SIMEON AND ANNA COME TO MARY AND JOSEPH IN THE TEMPLE, AND PROCLAIM JESUS AS THE LONG AWAITED MESSIAH, WE ARE TOLD THAT MARY AND JOSEPH WERE AMAZED AT THEIR WORDS.

 

AND WHEN, LATER, AT AGE 12, JESUS IS LOST AT THE TEMPLE, AND THEN FOUND BY HIS PARENTS, EVERYONE MARVELING AT JESUS’ WORDS OF WISDOM AND INSIGHT, WE ARE TOLD ONCE MORE, THAT MARY “TREASURED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART.”

 

YOU SEE, IT IS ONE THING TO THINK ABOUT THINGS WITH OUR MINDS, IT’S SOMETHING ELSE, SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT TO “PONDER THEM IN OUR HEARTS.”

 

IF YOU’VE EVER TAKEN ONE OF THOSE PERSONALITY TESTS, LIKE THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR IN SCHOOL, OR FOR WORK, YOU KNOW THAT ONE COMPONENT OF OUR PERSONALITY IS WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE THINKERS (T’s) OR FEELERS(F’s).

 

THINKERS LEAD WITH THEIR HEADS; FEELERS LEAD WITH THEIR HEARTS;

 

AND WHILE NONE OF US IS PROBABLY A PURE TYPE OF ONE OR THE OTHER – A THINKER ONLY OR A FEELER ONLY, MOST OF US TEND TO BE MORE ONE THAN THE OTHER.

 

MARY, IT APPEARS, IS A FEELER, PROCESSING INFORMATION PRESENTED TO HER ABOUT HER SON, AND HIS LIFE, AND HIS FUTURE, “PONDERING IT IN HER HEART.”

 

THE WORLD NEEDS THINKERS AND FEELERS, BUT MOST OF ALL, WE NEED BOTH; WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT THINGS, AND WE NEED TO DO SO, WITH FEELING.

 

THINKING WITHOUT FEELINGS IS TOO ANALYTICAL; TOO STERILE; LACKING IN EMPATHY; AND OFTEN WITHOUT CONCERN FOR HOW IT WILL AFFECT SELF AND OTHERS.

 

FEELINGS WITHOUT THINKING ON THE OTHER HAND, CAN BE TOO EMOTIONAL; TOO SYMPATHETIC; ALLOWING OUR FEELINGS TO DICTATE OUR COURSE OF ACTION WITHOUT REALLY THINKING IT THROUGH, OFTEN RESULTING IN WELL-INTENTIONED BUT ILL-CONCEIVED PLANS AND ACTIONS.

 

WE NEED BOTH. WE NEED TO THINK; AND WE NEED TO FEEL.

 

AND WHEN WE CAN’T DO BOTH FOR OURSELVES, WE NEED SOMEONE ELSE; OTHERS TO HELP BALANCE US OUT, AND BALANCE THE WORLD OUT AS WELL.

 

A WORLD OF THINKERS AND FEELERS, AND HOPEFULLY A GOOD BALANCE OF THE TWO WITHIN EACH OF US, AND TOGETHER, IN ALL OF US.

 

OH, BY THE WAY, IT HELPS IF WE ARE ALSO DOERS; IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO SIMPLY SIT AROUND THINKING THINGS; SIT AROUND FEELING THINGS;

 

IF MUCH OF ANYTHING IS GOING TO GET DONE, ESPECIALLY ANYTHING OF ANY REAL MEANING, WE’VE GO TO BE DOERS AS WELL.

 

BUT THIS SERMON IS ABOUT MARY’S HEART, AND OURS, AND I WANT TO GET BACK TO “PONDERING THINGS IN OUR HEARTS.”

 

AS CHILDREN SOME OF US PLAYED A GAME OF IMAGINATION; IT DIDN’T REALLY HAVE A NAME, BUT IF IT HAD, IT WOULD BE CALLED “WHERE WOULD YOU LEAVE THE TREASURE?”

 

THE GAME WENT LIKE THIS – SAY YOU CAME INTO A GREAT STORE OF TREASURE, BUT YOU HAD TO GO AWAY FOR A WHILE, AND QUICKLY; YOU WEREN’T ALLOWED TO PUT IT IN THE BANK; AND THERE WAS NO TIME TO BURY IT IN THE BACKYARD;

 

ALL THERE WAS TIME TO DO WAS TO LEAVE THE TREASURE WITH SOMEONE ELSE FOR SAFEKEEPING, AND THE POINT OF THE GAME WAS TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHO THAT MIGHT BE.

 

EACH CHILD WOULD TAKE A TURN, OR IF YOU WERE PLAYING THE GAME ALONE, YOU’D RUN THROUGH THE LIST IN YOUR HEAD.

 

“HOW ABOUT THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL?” “NAH, THEY’D PROBABLY STEAL IT.”

“WHAT ABOUT THE PREACHER?” “NO, HE’D JUST PUT IT IN THE COLLECTION PLATE.”

 

“HOW ABOUT YOUR SISTER?” “ARE YOU CRAZY, SHE’D WANT TO SPLIT IT.”

 

AND SO IT WOULD GO, YOU’D RUN THROUGH THE LIST OF POTENTIAL CANDIDATES, WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS, UNTIL YOU CAME UP WITH SOMEONE YOU COULD TRUST.

 

ONE OF THE WAYS TO READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY IS AS A DIVINE VERSION OF “WHERE WOULD YOU LEAVE THE TREASURE?”

 

THE TREASURE IN THIS CASE, OF COURSE, BEING JESUS CHRIST AND THE QUESTION IS: WHERE DID GOD LEAVE IT?

 

DID GOD LEAVE IT WITH THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT? WITH POLITICIANS? WITH THOSE WHO PAVE THE ROADS, COLLECT TAXES, COMMAND ARMIES, BUILD SCHOOLS, PROVIDE CARE FOR THE WEAK?

 

NO, HEROD WAS A JEALOUS KING WHO WOUND UP KILLING OFF ALL OF THE CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF TWO, JUST IN HOPES OF DESTROYING JESUS BEFORE HE COULD GET A FOOTHOLD IN THE WORLD.

 

EVERY YEAR AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART IN NEW YORK, THERE IS DISPLAYED, BENEATH THE GREAT CHRISTMAS TREE, A BEAUTIFUL 18TH CENTURY NEAPOLITAN NATIVITY SCENE.

 

IN MANY WAYS IT IS A VERY FAMILIAR SCENE. THE USUAL CHARACTERS ARE ALL THERE: THE SHEPHERDS, THE WISEMEN, JOSEPH, MARY, AND JESUS ARE THERE, EACH FIGURE AN ARTISTIC MARVEL OF WOOD, CLAY, AND PAINT.

 

THERE IS, HOWEVER, SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT THE SCENE, SOMETHING UNEXPECTED HERE, EASILY MISSED BY THE CASUAL OBSERVER.

 

WHAT IS STRANGE HERE IS THAT THE STABLE, AND THE SHEPHERDS, AND THE CRADLE ARE SET, NOT IN THE EXPECTED SMALL TOWN OF BETHLEHEM, BUT AMONG THE RUINS OF MIGHTY ROMAN COLUMNS.

 

THE FRAGILE MANGER IS SURROUNDED BY THE BROKEN AND DECAYING COLUMNS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

 

THE ARTIST KNEW THAT THE MEANING OF THE TREASURE; THE GOSPEL, THE BIRTH OF GOD’S NEW AGE, OF GOD’S KINGDOM, WOULD ALSO BE THE DEATH OF THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD.

 

SO IF NOT WITH THE GOVERNMENT, WHERE DID GOD LEAVE THE TREASURE OF CHRIST?

 

WELL, THERE CERTAINLY WAS NO ROOM FOR THE TREASURE OF CHRIST IN THE INN; WITH UNBELIEVERS; WITH THOSE WHO TURNED A BLIND EYE, A DEAF EAR, AND A COLD SHOULDER TO THE HOLY FAMILY.

 

WITH BELIEVERS THEN – GOD LEFT THE TREASURE WITH BELIEVERS – LIKE MARY AND JOSEPH, ZECHARIAH AND ELIZABETH, WITH ANGELS, AND SHEPHERDS, AND WISEMEN…

 

WELL, YES, SORT OF, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LOCKED UP IN A SET OF STERILE BELIEFS, AND HARD AND FAST RULES;

 

OR SECRETED AWAY IN WELL-APPOINTED SANCTUARIES;

 

NOT TO MENTION IN WELL-APPOINTED THEOLOGIES WITH EVERY “I” DOTTED AND EVERY “T” CROSSED.

 

MAKING THE ROUNDS ON FACEBOOK AND THE INTERNET RIGHT NOW IS A POSTER THAT READS:

 

“LET US FEED THE HUNGRY, HOUSE THE HOMELESS, STOP THE KILLING, AND PROVIDE MEDICINE FOR THE SICK. WHEN WE’VE ACCOMPLISHED THAT, WE CAN SIT AROUND AND ARGUE ABOUT RELIGION.”

 

THERE IS A WELL KNOWN LEGEND ABOUT A SEMINARY STUDENT APPROACHING THE GREAT THEOLOGIAN PAUL TILLICH. TILLICH HAD JUST LECTURED ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE, AND A STUDENT WAS CLUTCHING IN HIS HAND A LARGE, BLACK, LEATHER BOUND BIBLE.

 

“DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD?” SHOUTED THE STUDENT.

 

TILLICH LOOKED AT THE STUDENT’S FINGERS TIGHTLY GRIPPING THE BOOK.

 

“NOT IF YOU THINK YOU CAN GRASP IT,” SAID TILLICH. “ONLY WHEN THE BIBLE GRASPS YOU.”

 

GOD DIDN’T LEAVE THE TREASURE OF CHRIST JESUS WITH BELIEVERS TO BE LOCKED UP IN THEIR MINDS; OR IN THEIR SET OF BELIEFS; IN THEIR RULES OR THEIR RULE BOOK; OR TO BE LOCKED AWAY IN OUR SANCTUARIES.

 

SO WHERE DID GOD LEAVE THE TREASURE OF JESUS CHRIST?

 

WELL FIRST, AS WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY THROUGHOUT THE ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS SEASON, GOD LEFT THE TREASURE OF JESUS IN MARY’S WOMB; HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD; TO BE BORN INTO THE WORLD.

 

BUT ONCE CHRIST WAS BORN, ONCE HE WAS RELEASED INTO THE WORLD, IT APPEARS, IT APPEARS, THAT GOD LEFT THE TREASURE OF JESUS CHRIST IN MARY’S HEART, AND OURS.

 

TO BE PONDERED, YES; TO BE TREASURED, FOR SURE; BUT ALSO TO BE SHARED LOVINGLY WITH OTHERS.

 

GOD DID NOT LEAVE THE TREASURE WITH THE HERODS OF THE WORLD; THEY WOULD HAVE CRUSHED IT.

 

GOD DID NOT LEAVE THE TREASURE WITH UNBELIEVERS WHO TOSS IT ASIDE;

 

NOR WITH BELIEVERS TRYING TO HOLD ON TO IT TIGHTLY, FOR THEIR VERY OWN, AND NO ONE ELSE’S.

 

NO, GOD LEFT THE TREASURE OF JESUS CHRIST IN MARY’S HEART, AND IN OURS, SO AS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN US AND IN OUR LIVES;

 

BUT ALSO THAT IT MIGHT BE SHARED LOVINGLY WITH OTHERS, SO AS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIVES, AND IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD AS WELL.

 

YEARS AGO WHILE SERVING AS A CHAPLAIN IN A HOSPITAL AS PART OF MY CLINICAL PASTORAL EDUCATION TRAINING I WAS STOPPED IN THE HALLWAY BY ONE OF THE JANITORIAL STAFF.

 

“YOU’RE ONE OF THE CHAPLAINS HERE, AREN’T YOU?” SHE ASKED. “I AM,” I SAID. “COULD WE FIND A PLACE TO TALK FOR A MOMENT?” “SURE,” I SAID.

 

WE FOUND A COUCH IN A CORNER OF THE LOBBY, AND SAT TOGETHER.

 

“I’VE JUST GOTTEN THE RESULTS,” SHE SAID, HALTINGLY.

 

I’M HIV POSITIVE. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I KNOW IT WAS MY HUSBAND WHO BROUGHT THIS HOME TO ME; HE’S IN THE STREETS AS MUCH AS HE’S AT HOME. I CAN’T TRUST HIM; I FEEL BETRAYED; AND NOW HE’S MADE ME SICK.

 

MY FAMILY’S GOING TO ABANDON ME, BECAUSE THEY KEPT TELLING ME TO LEAVE HIM, AND NOW THIS; AND I’M GOING TO BE ALL ALONE.

 

I’LL LOSE MY JOB WHEN THE HOSPITAL FINDS OUT I’M HIV POSITIVE. I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO GO; I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN; WOULD YOU PRAY FOR ME?”

“OF COURSE,” I SAID. WE TALKED A LITTLE LONGER. I TRIED TO REASSURE HER THAT HER FAMILY MIGHT ACTUALLY STEP UP FOR HER, ESPECIALLY NOW.

 

THAT WORKING IN A TEACHING HOSPITAL, IT MIGHT BE THAT SHE WOULDN’T BE FIRED, BUT HELPED BY THOSE AROUND HER.

 

I TRIED TO REASSURE HER THAT MANY PEOPLE WERE LIVING LONGER WITH HIV AND THAT WITH TREATMENT, SHE COULD TOO.

 

“BUT I NEED YOUR PRAYERS,” SHE SAID. RIGHT NOW, I NEED JESUS. HE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN HELP.” WE PRAYED TOGETHER QUIETLY.

 

FOR THE REST OF MY CHAPLAINCY WE WOULD SEE EACH OTHER IN PASSING, AND WOULD SPEAK.

 

AFTER I LEFT THE HOSPITAL, BEING A MINISTER IN THE COMMUNITY, I WOULD STILL SEE HER IN THE HALLWAYS OF THE HOSPITAL, IN THE YEARS TO COME.

 

SHE HADN’T BEEN FIRED. SHE WAS BEING TREATED IN THE HOSPITAL CLINIC. SHE WAS LIVING ON HER OWN NOW. HER FAMILY, ESPECIALLY HER MOTHER, HAD STEPPED UP. AND “JESUS,” SHE SAID, “HAD BEEN SO GOOD TO HER.”

 

LUKE’S WORD TO US TODAY, THROUGH MARY AND JOSEPH, THROUGH SIMEON AND ANNA, IS THAT GOD HEARS OUR PRAYERS, AND THAT IT IS INTO JUST SUCH SITUATIONS OF HOPELESSNESS AND HELPLESSNESS THAT THE POWER OF GOD IS BORN.

 

“SIMEON TOOK (JESUS) IN HIS ARMS AND PRAISED GOD SAYING:

 

‘MASTER, NOW LET YOUR SERVANT DEPART IN PEACE, ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD;

 

FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN YOUR SALVATION, WHICH YOU HAVE PREPARED IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL PEOPLES, A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL…’

 

IT’S INTO OUR HEARTS THAT GOD ENTRUSTS THE TREASURE OF JESUS CHRIST, LIFTING UP THE LOWLY AND FILLING THE EMPTY WITH GOOD THINGS – SETTING THINGS RIGHT.

 

BUT IT CANNOT REMAIN ONLY IN OUR HEARTS, AND CERTAINLY NOT ONLY IN OUR MINDS;

 

AND WHILE WE MAY BE THINKERS, SOME OF US; AND FEELERS, OTHERS OF US;

WE ARE ALL TO BE DOERS, SHARERS OF THE WORD BECOME FLESH, HAVING DWELT AMONG US.

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