When I used to teach first grade, one of the best parts was introducing the kids to listening to chapter books read aloud. One of our favorite series was the mysteries of Cam Jansen, the fifth-grade girl detective. Cam, short for “Camera” had a photographic memory and would often use the pictures she had taken in her mind to solve whatever mystery was at hand. Several times throughout the story, Cam would happen upon a scene, close her eyes and say, “Click!” And the image would stay in her mind until she needed to retrieve it.
Whether or not you claim to have a photographic memory, chances are you can go back in your mind to any significant life event and remember some memory, some scene, some feeling about that moment. A surprise birthday party…click! A fun family vacation…click! Graduation…click! Your wedding day…click! Having a child…click! But life isn’t just a series of fun and exciting events. Even the difficult memories get recorded in our minds, too. A cancer diagnosis….click. A spouse walking out the door…click. A rebellious child breaking the rules yet again…click. The loss of someone you love…click. Unfortunately, we don’t get to always choose the things our mind remembers.
Since my son passed away last year, my memory has taken a significant beating. I thought perhaps it was just my own experience, but it actually is a proven scientific fact that memory impairment is a result of grief. Many others who walk the road of loss would attest to this as well. As my brain is now starting to be able to handle and process information better than it could a year ago, I feel a little like Cam Jansen, consciously and deliberately trying hard to remember events and moments as they happen.
So perhaps it is no surprise that this Christmas season, I’ve been drawn to one particular verse from the account of Luke 2.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
I don’t know exactly all the things Mary remembered and thought about from that night Jesus was born. Maybe it was the sweet, soft skin of a newborn baby…click. The sound of a heavenly angel choir in a nearby field….click. Or perhaps it was the sight of shepherds coming to bow down and worship the long-awaited Savior that had finally come to this earth…click. Those are all lovely and amazing memories, for sure. But we also know that first Christmas was anything but picturesque. Mary most certainly remembered the tough parts, too. Being turned away time and time again from finding shelter…click. The animal sounds and smells surrounding her as she labored to give birth…click. The loneliness of having a baby with no family around…click. The uncertainty of what her future meant as the mother of Jesus…click.
But Mary didn’t have a selective memory. She remembered it ALL. The good. The bad. And most certainly, the incredibly difficult. And not only did she remember it. She treasured it. Mary, despite her circumstances, takes it all in and counts it as treasure. A gift.
And so my focus this season has been to have a Mary kind of Christmas. The kind of Christmas where my mind and heart stops at the wonderful, the simple, and the not-so-easy and pauses to say, “click”, without my iPhone in hand. To treasure those moments, to keep them in my heart, and to count each one as a gift. All of it. Singing “Silent Night” by candlelight in church next to my beautiful daughter….click. Taking in the awe-inspiring colors of a sunset hike on Christmas Eve…click. Only filling one child’s stocking…click. Sitting at my son’s grave with a poinsettia in hand…click.
Like Mary, I want to treasure all these things. These feelings. These moments. They remind me that life can be joyous and yet life can also be terribly hard some days. They remind me of how precious everyday life is. They remind me there is so much more beyond this earthly life and its temporary joys and sadness. But most of all, they remind me there is hope of a future with God forever, because of the gift that He gave at Christmas in His own Son, Jesus. And that truly is the greatest treasure to not only keep in my heart, but to share with the world.
May you have that same Mary kind of Christmas.