There is a story of four young Jewish Yeshiva students, (Jewish seminary). One afternoon in a study session, one student gave a book to one of the men asking him to take a look and “Tell us what you think.”
Later that night, curious of the book, in eagerness, he sat down and opened to chapter one. He started to read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Pause). “What?” he thought. He read it again “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Excited, he stood up, exclaiming, “NO!” And continues, “God’s not finished!” And closed the book! You see, in the ancient writings, originally there were no chapters, no verses and no punctuation. According to Hebrew thought (and method) they never paused until the complete thought was finished, they read to the edge of the story. The book handed to this young man was the English King James version of the Bible.
The very first verse is just part of a story. That story is part of a bigger story —the historical story of God. We often read, pause, or stop before the whole of a particular story is in sight. Or we come to a famous or familiar portion of scripture, so familiar with a “Oh I know this part” we run our finger down and turn the page.
We read the story of Christmas in both Matthew and Luke. We know this story as well—very well. Both Mary and Joseph are told great things, divine things through angelic visits. Mary, although never being with a man, would become pregnant, conceived of the Holy Spirit. This baby boy would “save the people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). At one point, Joseph and Mary head to Bethlehem for the national census. There are some housing issues. Once settled, the baby, who is to be called Jesus, is born.
Luke chapter 2 tells of the shepherds living in the fields taking care of the sheep. They too get an angelic visit, declaring good news, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (2:11). The shepherds are told what to look for. Then the backup singers appear, angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…” (v14). When the angels exit, so do the shepherds. Excited, they go and find Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. As they do, they tell any and all who will listen what they were told.
Glorious and full of splendor! Yet we tend to stop here. But the story isn’t over. Keep reading. All who heard what the Shepherds reported hearing were—amazed. Then v19, this verse is challenging, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This young gal took all that has been said to her, to Joseph and now the shepherds and did some pondering.
The Jewish people were (are) a storytelling culture. From a noticeably young age, they are told the story of God and of their people. From the very beginning when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, where mankind broke relationship with their God. Throughout many, many generations, God used prophets, law and the lives of people to tell His story—the story of restoring relationship.
Mary pondered the miraculous virgin birth, the coming of the Savior, and the declaration of “peace on earth.” It ALL slipped into the ongoing story line and fit perfectly! The story of restoring relationship, restoring peace. Biblical peace isn’t just the lack of conflict; it is the presence of the rightness of God. It literally means “to set at one again.” Conveying what once has been toppled over was now righted and set at one again—peace.
Mary took ALL this and she pondered it. Her pondering isn’t mere tucking it away and thinking on it now and then. The word Luke uses conveys “putting together.” She connected all the dots. She lined it all up. When all strung together, all the pieces fit. Each piece has beauty in itself. But what a glorious bigger story. Mary, the shepherds (and those amazed) were told their whole life, the Jewish people were waiting to be rescued—the Messiah. God has just sent the answer to their waiting—His Son, Jesus.
When reading our bibles, don’t stop or skim over the famous or familiar parts. Keep reading, like the young Jewish men—beyond to the edge of the story. The same Holy Spirit that inspired, breathed on the writers, He breathes on we, the readers. Invite Him to read with us. In this Christmas season, may we truly treasure the bigger story. May we ponder, putting together all the divine stuff—God’s gracious, loving restoring of relationship, “Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; He is Christ the Lord… “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…”
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).