Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Here is an extract from my Christmas Day sermon:
If you truly put yourself into the nativity story, you can’t help but wonder: how did Mary cope?
Well, St Luke gives us a tiny clue in a beautiful verse. He writes that Mary ‘treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart’. I think he is referring not only to the words of the Shepherds but to the other words Mary has heard up to giving birth to Jesus.
Unlike us, Mary didn’t know the end of the story, didn’t know what was going to happen to her after she said ‘yes’ to God. So Mary clung onto the words and to the Word that she had heard as if her life depended on it. She remembered that the angel Gabriel had told her that she was highly favoured by God, she remembered, after hearing the jeers calling her a prostitute and a whore as she left Nazareth for her cousin Elizabeth’s house that the first thing that Elizabeth said to her was that she was ‘blessed among women’, and then she remembered exactly the message that the angels had passed onto the shepherds, those men with funny accents and coarse ways that stumbled into the cave – they said ‘peace on earth and goodwill to those on whom God’s favour rests’ – God’s favour – Gabriel said that God favoured me, Mary remembered, me, here in this cave a long way from home, disgraced by my village – God still favours me.
Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
Mary shows us what it is to have faith in the most dire of circumstances and there was worse to come for her. Soon after she and Joseph would have to flee to Egypt as refugees, unsure of the welcome they would receive in the country of the old enemy of their people. But Mary, throughout, must have treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. God favours me, she remembered, I am blessed among women. She chose to believe in God’s word when all the other words around her said the opposite.
So as we are on the cusp of a new year, unaware of what is to come, of the challenges and joys to come, we too should be like Mary and treasure the word of God to us, that we are loved so much, that we are welcomed, that we are included, that, yes, we are favoured by God so much that he became a vulnerable baby, come to be with us, alongside us in our difficulties and our delight. Let us treasure all these words, the Word of God, more than any other gifts we might receive today and ponder this mystery, this Christmas joy in our hearts. Amen.