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holidays, the five-year-old was showing his little brother around the Christmas
display at the church. "Here are the shepherds," he explained knowledgeably,
"and there are the sheep and the cows and the wise men. And here is Mary,
she's Jesus' mother. And that's Mary's husband, Virg." A teacher, who was
nearby, overheard and offered a correction. "Mary's husband was named Joseph,
dear," she said, "not Virg." The five-year-old wrinkled his brow. "Then
how come," he wanted to know, "the preacher always talks about Virg and
Mary?" (James Dent in Charleston, W.Va. Gazette)
I felt a little bit like
we were ditching class, but I agreed to skip Friday evening of the writer's
conference and drive up to Santa Fe with several other faculty members.
I rationalized that I could use a break from shop talk and knew that I'd
love to get some green chile while back in New Mexico.
The food was good, but the
fellowship was better. One of my good friends, a native New Mexican exiled
in Nashville, served as tour guide. Though I'd lived in New Mexico for
almost five years, I listened with fascination as he talked about the history
and culture of the Land of Enchantment. It wasn't the information that
kept me spellbound; it was his passion.
One leg of the tour, however,
I found uncomfortable-a stroll through a historic Catholic Church. As we
entered, I noticed a class in an adjacent room and was happy to see praying
people sprinkled throughout the building. Yeah, the confessional booths
and statues made me feel a little uneasy, but I overcame the uneasiness
to enjoy the distinct architecture and superior craftsmanship of the historic
building-it was impressive.
I was really enjoying the
tour until we meandered into a room that contained an shrine to Mary. Beneath
the artist's rendition of our Lord's Mother knelt a woman who was obviously
praying to Mary. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
I've known for years that
some Catholics pray to Mary, but knowing it and seeing it is two different
things. How sad that people misunderstand the Christmas story and worship
Mary instead of her Son.
This morning, our message
is not about Virg and Mary, and neither is it about the Virgin Mary, it
is about Mary's treasure.
We know about the treasures
that the Wise Men gave Jesus; Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. But how much
thought have we given to Mary's treasure? Today's text says, "But
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."
(Luke 2:19 NASB)
When Susan came home from
Stephen's baby shower, she brought baby clothes, toys, diapers, and other
"baby stuff," but she also had a special gift from a special friend that
was just for her. When Susan was a pre-teen, Fudge Okamatchi was her adult
prayer partner. Every day, Fudge prayed for her and on special occasions
would remember her with a gift. Fudge bought Stephen a gift, but also bought
Susan a beautiful jumpsuit with Japanese symbols running down the right
leg. When Fudge gave Susan the gift, she said, "I wanted you to have something
pretty for yourself, I hope you enjoy it." She did. And I have to say that
Susan made that jump suit look pretty good. It was a thoughtful gift from
a special friend-a gift that Susan treasured. Mary had a treasure too,
not something the wise men gave her Son, but something else.
What was Mary's treasure?
Certainly, the birth of her first child was something for her to treasure.
Every mother here today can attest to the sense of wonder the birth of
a baby brings. I remember our children's birth like it was yesterday. With
Stephen, Susan's water broke midmorning on July 26, 1984. We were relaxing
at home and hadn't taken a shower yet. "Susan," I said, "can you wait
a few minutes for me to take a shower before we go to the hospital."
Because we were young and in love, she agreed.
I took a shower and put on
a tie. "Why are you wearing a tie," Susan asked. "Well you don't
want our son to think his Daddy is a bum do you?" I replied. Off we
went to the hospital.
Susan's contractions were
far apart, so we had to walk up and down the hallways. The minutes turned
into hours; the clock went past Midnight and about 2:00 the next morning,
Susan got serious about having the baby. She had a facial expression I'd
never seen on her before, I'd seen it on Rosy Greer, but never on my wife.
I didn't know how strong
she was until she was in hard labor gripping my hands. Susan wanted natural
childbirth. She was hurting me enough that I was ready to take the medicine
she was turning down. Straight up 3:00 a.m., Stephen came into the world,
kicking and screaming. (He hasn't stopped since.)
Susan's facial expression
changed. With a huge smile, she held Stephen as the doctor cut the umbilical
cord. Unlike Mary, Susan didn't want to quietly treasure her son, she wanted
to wake the world up to tell them about her new baby. "Wait until at
least 6:00 a.m.," I said as tried to get a little sleep on the small
love seat they had for the fathers. (I was exhausted, we guys really do
have the toughest job in this whole child birth thing.) Meanwhile, Susan
reclined in her comfortable hospital bed holding our son. I don't think
she slept a wink. Soon she was on the phone telling everyone.
For some reason, Mary didn't
have the urge to tell anybody anything. Our text pictures her off to herself
all these things, pondering them in her heart."
This was not an ordinary
birth; Mary was a virgin. Her pregnancy and subsequent childbirth were
biological impossibilities, you know, the kind of thing that God specializes
The point of Mary being a
virgin is not her virtue, but God's power. Certainly, Mary treasured her
son, and the miraculous way He was conceived, but I think there is more.
There is one more place in
scripture where Luke mentions Mary's treasure. After Mary and Joseph turned
back from a day's journey to go back to the temple to find Jesus, Luke
makes a comment: "And
He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection
to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart."
(Luke 2:51 NASB)
What is she treasuring here?
Is it her Son's obedience and subjection? Certainly! What mother doesn't
treasure a son that obeys her. But there's more. The secret to understanding
Mary's treasure is a close study of her song, (The Magnificat) found in
In verse 49 she says, "For
the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name."
(Luke 1:49) What are the "great
things" God did for Mary?
Perhaps you'd say it was that God choose her to give birth to Jesus, and
certainly you'd have a point. Just as you could argue that the childbirth
was the treasure she pondered in Luke 2:19 or an obedient son what she
treasured in Luke 2:51. But if you do, you ignore the context of the rest
of the song. In verse 50 she quotes Psalms 103:17; it talks about God's
mercy to all generations, then in the rest of the song she praises God
for what He has done for all the people. The Magnificat is not about what
God did for Mary by allowing her to bear his son; it is about what God
did for Mary and the rest of the world in sending a Savior.
Mary's treasure was not that
she was the mother of Jesus or that her son submitted to her. Mary's treasure
was that her Son was also her Savior. When Jesus shed His precious blood
on Calvary's tree, He did it to give eternal life to His mother, and to
ours, and to us.
The angel of the Lord did
not bring good news of great joy about Mary-it was about Jesus. And the
angel said to them, Do
not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall
be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been
born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The "good news of great joy"
was Mary's treasure. Is He yours too?