In the appointed gospel reading from Luke chapter 2 on this First Sunday after Christmas, we fast forward from celebrating the coming of God to us in the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem, and jump ahead to a time when Jesus is already a teenager.
And we follow all the stressful drama of this teen and his parents, as Jesus gets “lost” in Jerusalem, and how the parents finally find him in the temple of all places, and so on.
But the key phrase in the Gospel text that I want to draw our attention to, is in verse 51 of Luke 2: “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”
Jesus’ mother, Mary, treasured, or pondered, all these things in her heart.
Mary was a “heart” person.
You can tell, that Mary was inclined to be centred in the heart, living out of the heart, and led by the “heart.”
We hear reference again of Mary’s pondering in her heart earlier in verse 19 of Luke 2, just after the shepherds showed up at the manger and told Mary and Joseph about the angels’ message: Mary “treasured and pondered” these things in her heart.
Of all people, Mary had good reason to ponder much in her heart!
… Having had encounters with angels …
… heard divine whisperings …
… and experienced first-hand the amazing events surrounding the birth of her son Jesus,
… and just now in today’s Gospel passage, having lived through a stress-filled day looking frantically for Jesus until finding him in God’s temple of all places, learning from and listening to the temple theologians …
Mary had much to ponder, and muse, in amazement and wonder—about Jesus, among other persons and events in her life.
Now, to be a person of the heart, does not mean one is an unthinking person, refusing to use logic or the rational mind to think through something.
It does mean that one has succeeded to link the heart and the mind together, to bring them in sync with one another.
The scriptures refer to the heart as the central location, the core of a person’s essential being, and personality.
… where a person’s basic passions and interests, gifts and talents, and hopes and dreams reside.
… where a person’s prayers and yearnings, divine ponderings, and ultimate values and principles get worked out.
The heart is also the place where something of God’s Spirit and presence dwells.
According to the prophet Jeremiah 31:33, God says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord”, for they shall all know me…”
It’s no wonder that the word “heart” appears over one thousand times in the scriptures.
In Luke 6, Jesus talks about how the good treasure of the heart produces good; the evil treasure of the heart produces evil, “for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
Jesus’ followers are to love God with all their hearts (10:27), to pray and not lose heart (18:1), and to give from their hearts. (11:4).
And so the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians today admonishes them: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
The heart matters.
We’ve heard it said: “Follow your heart.” “What does your heart tell you?” “Let your heart lead you.”
The heart is where we look for meaning, direction, guidance.
We pay attention to the heart’s promptings, to see where God might be nudging us.
And we act.
Mary not only “treasured” and “pondered”, but also acted on the Spirit’s nudging in her heart, doing what God asked her to do:
… carrying the child in pregnancy,
… along with Joseph, parenting Jesus, caring for him, preparing Jesus for adulthood and his own mission.
We too, as people of the heart, not only need to “treasure” and “ponder” in our hearts, but also to act on what God is nudging us to do…
… even in our reluctance, fear, and overthinking a situation …
We act anyway.
Consider the humble bumble bee.
Aerodynamically speaking, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly.
It’s weird anatomy just goes against ease of flight.
But the bee doesn’t know that; it just goes on flying anyway, focussed on its mission to get the pollen.
We act on the heart’s prompting anyway, following a mission much larger, more significant and beautiful and good than our fears, our overthinking, our “analysis-paralysis”.
I think we can all relate to this, especially those of you who’ve had the courage to take for the first time a pottery class, or painting class.
I was struck by the experience Linda Douty shared in her writings, as a beginner taking a watercolour painting class.
Walking into the classroom for the first time, she admitted to feeling totally insecure, inept, unprepared and afraid.
She had next to no knowledge of the art of water colouring – it’s unique supplies, brushes, paints and techniques needed.
Sitting down and ready for step-by-step instructions from the teacher, her jaw dropped when the teacher produced a small vase loaded with lavender blossoms, and simply said: “Paint it.”
Asking for guidance on proper use of brush and mixing of paints and so on, Linda was met by the teacher’s calm yet firm insistence: “Just begin. Just paint.”
Forced to push beyond her perfectionism and self-conscious comparisons with others, Linda slowly allowed her pure and authentic artistry to show itself – it ended up being not a perfect painting, but it was a pure and authentic outflowing of what was in here, her heart.
It’s not always easy to let your heart lead, and take that first step. We want to be perfect. We want to get it right, right away!
Others might discourage you, for good, rational, logical reasons.
But like the bumble bee, we fly anyway, and take the heart’s lead, to be the compassionate and caring people God calls us to be.
And God in Christ Jesus, who is born in our hearts, and who brings us the peace that passes all understanding, will push us outward,
… to follow God’s ways of bringing truth to light,
… to increase understanding and compassion among people experiencing animosity,
… and to live into hope for a new day, a new beginning, a fresh start.