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ponder the promise

Photo by Lionello Delpiccolo with Unsplash

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

As December draws to a close, and as we wrap up another year into a nice, neat bow – kind of like a present on Christmas morning – I think it would be advantageous to pause. Before we start making resolutions and thinking about the new year and writing up lists of all the things we want to accomplish in 2019, it might be beneficial to stop and reflect on all that God has done over this past year. Before the new beginning, let’s remember the past.

Before we plan let us ponder the promise.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

It was approximately 700 years from Isaiah’s prophecy of a coming Messiah to the fulfillment of the promise.

Seven. Hundred. Years.

That is a long time. Many lives had come and gone, hoped and yearned, waited and dreamed of seeing this one precious promise kept. I can only imagine that, by the time the angel appeared to Mary, many had given up on the hope that Immanuel would come during their lifetime. Accustomed to the pages turning on each year and each generation, the mundane practice of keeping God’s commands, following the laws and the patience of waiting had become the lifestyle of the faithful ones.

Did God forget his promise? Did Isaiah get it wrong? Was the true message lost in translation?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6,7

The promise of the Messiah was confirmed in one statement: “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Seven hundred years later, the angel appeared to Mary.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33

After all those years, what had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, longed for in the hearts of men and women through hundreds of years of waiting had been conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin. The story was unfolding.

Sometimes the waiting feels like a lifetime. Perhaps no two people understood the agony of waiting, and the hopelessness of the swiftly moving hands of time, than Zechariah and Elizabeth. They, too, were waiting for the coming Messiah, but even more personally and deeply was the desire for a child of their own. Longing through barren years had given way to the resignation that this was one prayer that would never be answered.

And then an angel appeared to Zechariah.

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” Luke 1:13

Your prayer has been heard.

Can you imagine the emotion, the confusion, the utter shock and bewilderment in realizing that your prayers, spoken and unspoken, had been heard by God?

Here’s the thing…every prayer we whisper, shout, or simply hold in our hearts, are all heard by God. And he will answer every one. Sometimes the answer comes in a way that we don’t understand, and sometimes it comes in the most unimaginable way, but regardless of timing or delivery, God is faithful, and God hears.

“The Lord has done this for me.” Luke 1:25

This gift of a child, so meaningful and treasured, was a reminder to Elizabeth that God keeps his promises. She had waited a lifetime for a baby and a lifetime for a Messiah, and in a matter of months God had moved quickly in fulfilling the hearts desire of a woman and an entire nation. But before she shared her news, Elizabeth went into seclusion. Rather than step into the spotlight of the miracle, she took time to ponder the promise and remember, “The Lord has done this for me.”

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45

Mary went to visit Elizabeth. I sometimes wonder what those secret conversations between Mary and Elizabeth must have sounded like as they were both participants in the fulfillment of God’s great plan. When Mary came to visit her cousin, both were carrying a part of the promise in their wombs. Without a doubt, there was sure to be moments of awe and wonder, silence and endless talking. Even so, we simply don’t know all the details of the time they spent with each other. What we do know, however, is that this time they shared was sacred and sweet. They encouraged one another, and they, together, cherished every part of this incredible move of God.

God’s plan for Mary was unique; her journey one that would challenge her and define her. And all along the way, from the moment the angel appeared to her to the moment of Christ’s humble arrival, Mary took time to ponder.

We are explicitly told that after the shepherds visited and declared the amazing miracle:

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Do we take time to ponder? How often do we stop to take stock of the wonders and miracles that God has performed in our lives?

What do we treasure?

I know most of us have jumped head-first into the new year. It’s kind of the way we operate. Once Christmas is over, we are on to the next best thing. But the Christmas story serves as a reminder that, even though the event has passed, there is meaning in cherishing the moment, in pondering the promise.

Perhaps you are still waiting, still hoping, still praying. If so, then let the Christmas story encourage you to keep waiting, keep hoping, and keep praying. Pause before you plan, and entrust your greatest dreams and heart’s desire to the hands that fulfilled the greatest promise of mankind.

Maybe this year has been a culmination of every prayer you’ve ever prayed and every dream you’ve ever dreamed. Don’t let December pass by without taking time to reflect. Quietness does not undervalue the significance of the gift. Sometimes our quiet reflection reveals the substantiative impact the gift has had on our lives. Treasuring it first in our hearts makes the treasure shine more brightly to the world.

Before our New Year’s resolutions, before we tear down the tree and the lights, take time to ponder the wonder of the promises of God- the ones that have been fulfilled and the ones we are waiting for. When we ponder we find our hope renewed and our joy complete.

“The best coffers to lay up anything in is the heart. Happy are those who, like Mary, store up the things of Christ, not in their brain though that would make them orthodox; but in their heart, for that will bring them salvation.” – Charles Spurgeon

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