"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
In just two chapters, much as happened in the life of Mary. When the book of Luke opens the focus is on Mary's cousin Elizabeth and her husband. God is doing a lot of speaking but Elizabeth's husband Zechariah is having a hard time believing. Nonetheless Elizabeth does conceive, but for 5 months she keeps her pregnancy hidden. Then the story shifts to Mary. She is visited by an angel and agrees to participate in this great conspiracy to birth a King. She visits Elizabeth, only to discover that she is now 6 months pregnant! Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth prophesies over Mary. The pair stay together for 3 months. When Mary returns home, she and Joseph hear the decree that they must travel to Bethlehem, and set out on their journey. During the journey, Mary goes into labor and delivers her little boy, wrapping him in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger. While she watches him, a group of shepherds descend on the little family, declaring that a host of angels told them a Savior was born on this night. Then the shepherds left to spread the word about the newborn Savior. "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."
2013 has been a tough and beautiful year for me, and I wonder if Mary would have used the same description for herself in this moment. There is little question that Mary had a tough year. As she faced pregnancy, an unwed woman, she must have been the talk of the town, an easy target, ostracized, and feeling very unloved. We can hardly blame Joseph for trying to determine what to do with this new development in their relationship, but that, too, must have weighed on Mary's heart. In the early days of conceiving, where does she go?
She spends three months in the safety of her female cousin and friend. As soon as the two meet there is rejoicing. Elizabeth does not condemn her, does not berate her, does not look at her sideways, does not ask her to outline her future plans…
Elizabeth exclaims to her, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" That alone makes me tear up, but Elizabeth continues, "But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"
And when Elizabeth finishes, Mary launches into her own song!
Isn't that the beauty of what women can do for one another? In the midst of confusion and heartache, uncertainty and pain, women sing songs of affirmation, of presence, of joy, of hope and suddenly the way we see ourselves and our God changes. Suddenly we are favored. We can make it. God's promises can be true. I wonder how often Mary repeated the words of Elizabeth during her journey to Bethlehem and in the midst of her labor. The words of women carry us so far.
This Christmas I decided to ponder in my heart all that has transpired over the year. As I thought about the many women who carried me through the year I resolved to finally, for the first time in my life, send Christmas cards. These cards went to 20 women who sang songs of hope to me this year.
Before the year ends, will you join me on Twitter in singing songs to the women in our lives? Use #SongtomySisters and lets sing all that we mean to each other.