Luke 2:19 (New Living Translation)

“...but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

I’ve been reading through Luke in anticipation of Christmas this year. What I’ve found pretty interesting is how AMAZED Mary is—not just once, when the angel comes to tell her she’ll have a baby, not twice, when Elizabeth tells her the baby inside her own womb leaped upon hearing Mary’s voice, and not even three times, when the shepherds come to honor the child and no doubt tell about the angels…she is AMAZED over and over again. Those instances are just the beginning. After that, Luke documents her amazement (Luke 2:33) when Simeon, who had looked for the Messiah his entire life, proclaims that Jesus is the one sent from God. She’s then described as confused when Jesus explains why he was in the temple talking with the religious leaders.

So many things happen to Mary in the first two chapters of Luke. Unlike us, she couldn’t see the story set out in front of her, the way we read it now. She had no clue that Jesus would leave home and start his ministry at age 30, that he would be basically homeless with people following him wherever he went, and that he would die as a criminal on a Roman cross and three days later be raised from the dead. I dare say that this is not the life any of us would imagine for our child, and certainly not for the miraculous incarnation of the Son of God.

Side note: Being raised in the church, I find it hard to read scripture just to read it…admittedly, I automatically think about the Sunday School question: “How does this apply to your life?” That’s another blog post for another day…I believe there is validity in reading scripture, just for its own sake. It doesn’t always need life application. It is living and active and capable of standing on its own without interpretation or commentary.

But for the sake of bringing this into 2018 context, and the stated need that I have to glean a new truth from the Christmas story each year, I want to offer a few words about Mary’s amazement factor. Most likely, Mary was a good Jew. She honored the law, celebrated the festivals, and prayed the prayers begging for the Messiah to come. My guess is that she was 100% surprised when HE DID…through her womb, nonetheless. How many times do I/we follow the Christian convention of singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during Advent and when He tries to come and break into our lives, we’re shocked???! How often do we pray prayers of protection over our kids or beg God to bring healing to our families or peace to our world and then we fail to acknowledge when those prayers are answered? Amid the violence we see in the world, people going hungry, death of loved ones, illness, addiction, there is always something that will amaze us! Do I even look? Have I become so blind to the movement of the Holy Spirit that I cannot even recognize Him anymore?

Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of the story (like Mary), we fear because it looks different than we thought it would, and, maybe more frightening, we can’t see the end. Even being assured of God’s presence with us, we still don’t know what our stories will hold and we long for certainty. This year, our family’s story looks very different than I anticipated it would just a few short years ago. Honestly, I dreamed of more children, a full-time job (in America 😉) that I love, contributing to retirement, big family gatherings at our house for the holidays, and all the comforts of home. Right now, none of the above are true. When I prayed a few years ago that God would break us of ourselves, teach us, bring us closer to each other and closer to Him—this is not exactly what I had in mind. I’ve been more than surprised about the twists and turns our lives have taken. And, in the middle of it, I find myself confused at times and praying for it to be different. I can’t help but wonder if Mary ever prayed, “This is not what I thought it would be. Can you please just make it like I hoped? Or at least make everything the way it was?”

This Christmas, may AMAZEMENT and WONDER be yours in abundance as you trust the God of beautiful surprises.

MK Elementary Christmas play cast, 2018


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