One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was going to my friend Tara's house every Christmas Eve for a birthday party for Jesus. We'd all go to the candle lit Christmas Eve service at our church and then head on over to the Brown's. Their house was built in the Victorian era and was decorated so beautifully, my heart swoons just thinking about it now! The Christmas Story would play over and over on the TV while we'd all eat and talk until Mr. Brown would choose a special person to read the real Christmas story out of Luke chapter 2. Then someone would pray and we'd all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat cake. I remember getting that privilege of reading the Christmas story one year.
I'm sure I've read that same chapter 50 times. But this year, I noticed something I've never noticed before: verse 19. Mary, a teenager at the time, is uprooted with a man she has promised to marry.
I remember getting married as a teenager (just days away from my twentieth birthday) and the next day taking a plane to our honeymoon destination. As sure as I was that Randall was my soul mate, I sat next to him on the plane and had a slight moment of panic. It felt so strange to be able to leave the country with this man. I had to remind myself that Randall was my family now. A second later, I remembered that we were on our honeymoon and the panic turned to elation.
But I can only imagine what Mary was thinking on her road trip to Bethlehem. Was she in the early stages of labor as they knocked on the door to the inn; as she's setting up a place for herself to spend the night next to the donkey she rode into town with? I can only imagine the fear of the unknown and the struggle to trust that God will fulfill his promises.
And then after the adventure that is childbirth a bunch of smelly shepherds come in. Apparently, a flock of angels floated over them and told them that this baby, her wet infant, was the one their people have been waiting for for centuries. This tiny baby was going to be the one to save us all.
So the shepherds leave just as quickly as they came. They've got good news to spread. And then we see verse 19:
"but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often."
This wise, brand new mother stopped. She breathed in and out. She looked at her perfect baby, who must have looked an awful lot like his mommy, who would be the only truly perfect son. She took mental snap shots of all that was happening and stored them in her heart to remember time and time again for years to come.
Here's what THIS mother is doing this Christmas season: attending two baking parties, multiple staff/volunteer parties, a birthday party, two holiday musicals, multiple family get togethers in two different states, serving at a retirement home, serving at 9 Christmas Eve services and one rehearsal, enjoying relational gifts, watching Christmas movies, decorating the tree, decorating the house, training for my 5th half marathon and raising money for people who need water, buying gifts, MAKING gifts, wrapping gifts, delivering gifts, and the list goes on and on. These are all great and wonderful things. They make me happy, they make my Christmas season. But my goal for the remaining days of this season is to stop. Breathe in and out and take in the memories that are happening around me. To look at my precious boys and take mental snapshots to remember for years to come.
Like when my boys told me the real Christmas story, straight out of Luke 2, while dressed as a wise man and a puppy dog.
Like watching this man serve my family and others.
My prayer this season is that I will quit moving and be moved. Remind me why we celebrate. Make me stop and notice the extravagant gifts you've already given me and store these moments in my heart to think about often.
I'm so thankful.