The Greatest Gift of All

"But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19

"What is the greatest Christmas gift you have ever received, or most memorable Christmas?"
I asked this question of the members of the congregation of my first pastorate. The most interesting response came from the retired band director of Arizona State University. He recalled how as a boy he had always wanted a trumpet. His family was caught up in the financial collapse of The Great Depression, and money was very tight. His prospects of receiving a frivolous gift, when the family had to meet their basic needs, were remote. He was tremendously surprised on Christmas day, when his favorite uncle provided the ten dollars he needed to buy his first trumpet. That gift changed the direction of his life. He became an accomplished musician, Later he was called on in World War II to train bugler's, and to develop marching bands. When the war ended he was hired by the university, and spent thirty years developing their band program. He said that he often wondered what his life would have been like, if he had not received the gift of his first trumpet. That one gift changed his entire life. It put him on the road to a very fulfilling career, and a comfortable retirement. In 27 years of asking this question, I have never had anyone top his response. Ponder the question. Do you have a better one?

Mary treasured all "these things"she was experiencing, as the mother of the Son of God. Luke's account reveals her as someone who would ponder, weigh mentally, or think deeply about the things that God was bringing into her life. She would often meditate on the words she heard, the people she met, and the exciting events that God was unfolding. These were heavy thoughts, and she chose to consider carefully what God was doing. Apparently, she continued to do this from the day she conceived, through the nine months of pregnancy, during his first thirty years of preparation, and until the day Jesus performed His first miracle.

The first miracle of Jesus was the turning of water into wine. This decision has always made Southern Baptists a little nervous. We would have been more comfortable if he had turned whiners into tithers. Oh well, I digress. Back to Mary. She made a remarkable statement about her son to the servants of the wedding feast of Cana. The host family had run out of wine at the celebration, and were facing public embarrassment and ridicule. Mary came to Jesus, and told Him there was a problem. Jesus responded with a divine, "So what." He tells her His time to reveal His power had not arrived. She doesn't push. She went to the servants, pointed them to Jesus and said, "Whatever He says to you, do it." (John 2:1-12) The paragraph heading in my Bible entitles this passage, "The Miracle of Cana." In other words, the urgent problem was turned into the best wine. Jesus launched His public ministry, after hearing about the need from Mary, and getting a go ahead from God. This should be a prototype for Christ followers.

Mary must have made a number of withdrawals from the treasury of her heart, during the first thirty years of the life of Jesus. There is no biblical account of the conversations, but John's account reveals a unique bond between Mary and Jesus. Many times they had talked about His mission in life. When Mary brought the need of the wedding party to Jesus, she knew He had the ability to make a difference. How did she know that? She had either seen His power first hand, or she had heard Jesus talk about His growing awareness of His mission.

Mary's statement provides a window into the treasure room of her heart."Whatever He tells you to do, do it." She knew that there must be more to the Christmas story than the birth of Jesus. She was not privy to the timing of the launching of His mission, but she certainly had confidence in His ability to perform it. This was not the chutzpah of a typical Jewish mother. She had been dwelling on the importance of the life of Jesus for thirty years. She knew in her heart that there was more to the story than a baby in a manger. She lived with a holy expectancy for much longer than nine months. The real birth of Jesus began when He was thirty years old, and she was anxiously waiting for that day to come, when His purpose in life would be revealed.

If Mary was able to get over the miracle of the manger, then so should we. The Christmas Story points people to Jesus. It is the responsibility of Christ followers to lead people from the manger, and then the cross. The story does not end there. The resurrection of Jesus and His ascent into heaven is another chapter that must be shared with people in need of the greatest gift of all. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He is praying for His followers to tell the story that will prepare the way for His return.

What would you say is the greatest Christmas gift you ever received? This Christmas, make sure that you remember Jesus is "The Greatest Gift of All." Remind people Jesus is still in the miracle working business. If they tell you about a need in their life, follow Mary's lead. Go to Jesus on their behalf, and then point them to Jesus. You never know when Jesus will perform another miracle. He still does His greatest work in the lives of people who will do what He tells them to do. Pray for people in need, and point them to Jesus. He is "The Greatest Gift of All."