Covenant Connections

And Pondered Them in Her Heart

Dec 21, 2023

A Sermon of Reflection by Elizabeth Anne Jones
Based on Luke 2:1-20

Mary pondered these in her heart.

It began with a visit from the Holy messenger, the angel Gabriel speaking to a teenage Mary saying, “Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you.” And though she was alternately frightened, anxious, and confused, she knew that this was no dream. She was truly being called by God. The atmosphere was charged with a spiritual energy that could have only been generated by The Almighty, and so she replied with words similar to those she had heard in the scripture, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

A few weeks later, on a visit to her cousin Elizabeth, Mary was greeted with great joy by Elizabeth and her words were an affirmation that she was truly carrying the Lord himself inside her. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Any anxiety Mary had fell away as she was overcome with the most magnificent assurance as she sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Mary pondered these in her heart.

The baby came on a trip to be taxed and counted in the Roman government’s census. Joseph was her only attendant other than the animals on the lower level of a guest house where they were actually fortunate to find a cleared-out area and some fresh straw. As Joseph bathed her face in what was probably the only fresh water left in the city, she heard the baby Jesus cry and saw him for the first time. As she took Him in her arms, she knew that not only was her life changed forever, but that the entire world was somehow different.
When the shepherds arrived with their tale of angel choirs, tidings of great joy and spoke of this baby, her baby, as the Messiah and Lord, a part of her still wondered what this all might mean. She reminded herself that she had experienced the glory of the Lord and she heard again Gabriel’s words, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Mary pondered these in her heart.

As was the custom, a few days after the birth, Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus at the Temple. While they were there, they encountered two of God’s devotees, the priest Simeon and the prophet Anna. Without hesitation Simeon and Anna rushed toward the little family and with adoration and praise proclaimed that the baby Jesus was the Messiah! Simeon took the baby in his arms and said, “Now you are dismissing your servant in peace according to your word for I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light of revelation for the Gentiles and the glory to your people Israel.” Mary would also remember the haunting words from Simeon that seemed to pain him as he told her quietly, “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Mary pondered these in her heart.

Later there was the visit from the wise men who had followed the mysterious star that had appeared in the heavens around the time of the census. The star stopped right where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived. These wealthy and educated men appeared one late afternoon with gifts for Jesus. They seemed oblivious to the fact that they were in a small and modest home as they knelt down and bowed presenting their treasures to the toddling Jesus, gold for the king, frankincense for the priest, and myrrh for sacrifice.

Mary pondered these in her heart.

There was the day that Joseph appeared at home in the middle of the morning with fear in his eyes. He rushed his family away to Egypt telling Mary that he had been warned to depart quickly as rumors had reached the mad and jealous King Herod that a boy referred to as the King of the Jews had been visited by wise and wealthy men from the east. Herod was determined to eliminate any rival for the throne.
Twelve years after his birth when the family had visited Jerusalem for the Passover, Mary recalled that 3 days into the journey home, they had realized that Jesus was not with them and returned to the Temple in a frenzy of anxiety to find Jesus engaged in deep discussion with the teachers in the temple, and his puzzling comment in the face of their distress that he was “about his father’s business”.

“Mary pondered all these in her heart.”

There is more to this story. So much that Mary thought about, thoughts that were at times troubling, bewildering and painful. She thought of the struggles within their own family as Jesus began to establish his true identity and to fulfill the prophesies, the magnitude of the shift in her relationship with Jesus when being a disciple, a follower and a believer became so much more important than being His mother, the agony of standing at the foot of the cross, and the excruciating realization of Simeon’s words that a sword would pierce her own soul too.

But she also recalled with indescribable joy the miracles of Jesus, His ministry, the teaching and the stone that was rolled away.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. AMEN

Elizabeth Jones is grateful beyond words to serve as the CRE Stated Supply at Flat Rock and as Moderator for Salem. She is also serves on the Antiracism Ministry Team and the Committee on Ministry. She was humbled and astounded in 2021 when she was named Lay Person of the Year by the Association of Smaller Churches in the Synod of the South Atlantic. Elizabeth’s husband, Bob Jones is an engineer an ordained Elder. They are members at Piedmont and live in Powdersville.