Births are messy with fluids and emotions and noise and drama. Some may be easier than others, some less painful and traumatic. But in even the most intentionally sedated environment, they are still messy and wonderful. After the pain and the pushing and drama, after the newborn finds comfort, there is often a moment or two of calm silence. A moment that is soon ended by visiting friends, family, medical folks. Or, in the case of one birth, by a bunch of shepherds.
Luke records in part, “They (the shepherds) hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” (Luke 2:16–19, NLT)
There are actually two moments of silence in these few verses. At that time, just before the shepherds show up, we are told that Jesus was lying in the manger. Parents of newborns will know that the baby is probably not crying or fussing and maybe sleeping. We don’t know everything that transpired in the stable. But there was this moment of silent calm.
Perhaps Mary and Joseph marveled and soaked in the moment as many new parents do. A moment of wondering what that child’s life will be like. Perhaps they were pondering this new responsibility of parenting. Certainly, there was some joy shared between them. Most parents experience some of those things. But Mary and Joseph also had an extra question in their experience. Is this the Messiah?
In a way, the interruption of the shepherds into that quiet moment answers the question. God not only revealed His plan to Mary and Joseph but to these shepherds as well. This word of confirmation leads to the second beat of silence.
Luke wrote that “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” There’s a kind of quietness to Mary. She could have bragged about her role, but she didn’t. It seems from Luke’s Gospel that Mary gathered a collection of memories.
Much later, when Jesus was twelve, Luke tells of an incident. Instead of joining the caravan home after one of the feasts, Jesus stayed in the Temple discussing things with the religious leaders. When Mary and Joseph found Jesus again, they questioned Him about it. Jesus replied, “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”(Luke 2:49, NLT) After this incident, Luke writes, “Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51b, NLT)
We often think that these silent moments are empty and void. But that is not the case. It is instead an intentional turning of our thoughts to the things of God. We do fairly well at thinking about our present and considering our future, but the past is often far from our thoughts. We easily forget about how God moved in our lives last year, five years ago, or even longer.
Christmas invites us to cherish the now moments and to also treasure past moments. This invitation is more than about Christmas, but also about those present and past moments where God is moving or has moved throughout our lifetime. Sometimes we don’t even recognize God’s hand until time has passed and we look back. Find those moments, recall them, and treasure them as Mary did.