I am one who follows the discipline of “a word of the year.” When reading the Christmas story again a few years ago, I was fascinated with the word “treasured” found in Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Later in Luke 2:51 we read: “But His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” I discovered quickly that the infrequent use of that word in scripture did not take me on a yearlong study. However, what a thoughtful, prayerful, beautiful journey it was.
I am a collector or at least a keeper of things. I retain many items—not for their monetary value—but for the sentiments attached to them. It is very hard for me to discard anything; therefore, we move many, many boxes that may not have been opened for several years. To me they are treasures.
One of the words used in some translations of the Bible for “treasured” is “remembered.” I think this is my collector mindset. I remember the person and my relationship to that person as I handle each treasure.
My mother and father have gone to be with Jesus. I have several things that belonged to them. One of the treasures from my mother is a set of dishes. Often I have displayed them in my home, but in one house there wasn’t quite the right place to show them off, so they sat in the basement in a box. One day, feeling nostalgic, I decided I wanted to use a few of the pieces. I went downstairs to discover the box had been mishandled and most of the dishes were shattered. Instantly, grief overwhelmed me, and I broke out into inconsolable tears. I allowed myself to sit in the sadness for a time and recalled my sweet mother. How she loved and served with grace. Not in that moment but soon after, I realized that my mother’s words of love and actions of grace were really what made the dishes a treasure. The brokenness of the physical remembrance could not replace the treasures and memories in my heart!
I imagine that when Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart she was not fully aware of how or why she would need to remember. “These things that she was pondering might have been her time with Elizabeth regarding the birth of John. Possibly she remembered the beautiful prayer laid on her heart by God Himself. Could she be preserving in her soul the visit of the angel and the words “Do not be afraid?” Was it the visit of the shepherds, humble workmen from the hills or the visit of the Magi? There were so many more experiences she had on her journey with the Almighty Jehovah that surely sustained her in her brightest moments with Jesus as a child and in her darkest moments with Jesus as the Messiah in His last years on this earth. Her tormented, persecuted, beaten, crucified son, God Himself, born from her womb had given her treasures in her heart that surely sustained her in the most difficult times. What a gift. An indescribable gift.
Another definition of “treasured” in this passage is “kept safe.” The year 2020 has been a time when we have had to keep safe our knowledge of the faithfulness and promises of God no matter what is happening near us and in the world around us. The physical brokenness can never erase the treasure of God’s true words. What have you treasured in the past and pondered today in your heart that brings you through circumstances and earthly challenges?
When God called me to leave a job, house, neighborhood and church that I loved to be in the ministry of The Salvation Army, I had some questions and concerns. He clearly gave me this treasure: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
In my anger and deep grief as a young adult when I lost both of my parents less than a year apart, these treasures were gifted to me: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, You, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:10-12, 16-17)
In 2014, many across the globe prayed for my younger brother’s healing. Though we lost him to cancer, the words he claimed for himself became remembrances in my heart: “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief’” (Mark 9:24)!
Oh how these treasures and many more have resonated clearly into my circumstances over the years. I have had to make a conscious effort to keep them safe in my mind, spirit and heart. Our lives are fragile, but the following truth reminds us we have a God who is able, no matter what!
Treasure this: “But we have this precious treasure in earthen vessels (of human frailty), so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be from God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7, Amplified).
And by the way, having “a word of the year” is a great spiritual discipline.