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Dec 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 19, 2021



And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is might has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46-55

Intro: I won’t say this episode within the Christmas story has been neglected,

But it doesn’t get as much attention as the more familiar scenes
– it unfolds in a warm and intimate atmosphere
• the two women are relatives–both received a miracle
◦ both have been surprised by unexpected pregnancies
• we have no details of their time together, only their greetings,
◦ and each greeting is an eruption of joy and wonder
– Elizabeth’s greeting hints at the mystery Mary carries in her womb
And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (v. 43)
• Mary’s response is nothing less than an inspired song,
◦ like one of the Psalms in the Hebrew Scriptures
• you know you’ve caught the mood of this story if when reading it you smile

I am going to zero in on one particular line that Mary sings
. . . he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts

My first impression of this statement is that it is prophetic
– Mary celebrates a future as if it were already present
• it describes one of the social upheavals her Child will cause
My next impression: the world will be better for it
– the day when the plans of narcissistic leaders are foiled
A third impression: Mary is traveling familiar territory
– last week I mentioned the two times we are told,
• she treasured a memory and pondered it in her heart
• Mary’s life will affect the realm of inner thoughts

Now we’ll jump from this lovely encounter to the temple

I mentioned Simeon last week, who took Jesus into his arms,
– and prayed over him
• birth and death are featured in this encounter
• a birth is celebrated, a death is anticipated
◦ the one is connected to the other
◦ a peaceful death is possible because of the divine birth
Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2:34-35)
• Simeon’s prediction: Jesus will be a sign
◦ a sign doesn’t make things happen; it simply points out what’s there
• by his very presence, Jesus would expose what was in the hearts of many

I have taken that last line for our meditation today
that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed
– there are moments in Luke where we observe this happen–literally
• once when Jesus perceived the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees,
◦ Luke says he “answered” them – they were thinking something, but had not said anything
◦ in other words, Jesus answered their thoughts as if they had spoken them out loud!
Why do you question in your hearts? (Lk. 5:22)
• another time when they were looking for a reason to reject him,
Jesus knew their thoughts (Lk. 6:8)
• and again, when they slandered him and pestered him for a sign from heaven
But he, knowing their thoughts addressed their criticism (Lk. 11:17)
• another time it was the disciples he corrected
◦ they were arguing over which one of them was the greatest
But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child . . . . (Lk. 9:47)
• one time Jesus told the Pharisees explicitly,
You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts (Lk. 16:15)

I have a book written by a Benedictine Nun, Thoughts Matter

Sister Mary Margaret tells a story regarding Abba Anthony
– in order to know God as fully as possible,
• he renounced everything in his worldly life; home, wealth, honors, etc.
◦ but when he was alone in the desert, he realized
◦ he the thoughts of those things he renounced followed him
• this required a second renunciation — a renunciation of his thoughts
Mary Margaret Funk, “He realized that his thoughts mattered and that they had to be taken seriously, because if he did not take them seriously, he could not pray. He began to train himself to notice his thoughts, laying them out, rather than resisting them. . . . [he] learned to redirect his thoughts, either by rethinking them or by placing a prayer alongside the thought.”
◦ later she explains
“To know our thoughts is an essential step in redirecting our heart to God in prayer.”
– Fr. Romuald once explained to me, “I am not my thoughts. I am not my feelings.”
• this is an important lesson to learn – we cannot allow our thoughts define who we are
◦ but still, our thoughts matter – true thoughts assist, strengthen, and refresh us
. . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Php. 4:8)
◦ thoughts that are untrue can trip us up, mislead and ruin us
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)
• fearful, anxious, shameful thoughts can twist our minds
◦ convince us that we’re worthless, irredeemable, hopeless

I’m going to share a few of my thoughts about thoughts

I don’t expect you to remember this list, but I hope you feel it
Thoughts are not insignificant – they deserve our concern
◦ our unconscious thoughts run our lives
◦ they will bring us closer to God or carry us away from him
Thoughts are not inert – they are dynamic, a mental energy
We do not always know our own thoughts
◦ we get lost in them rather than look at them
◦ sometimes another person makes us aware of them
◦ we can learn to make ourselves aware of our thoughts
When our thoughts are revealed, we’re responsible to own them
◦ we can discern our thoughts–choose to keep or dismiss them
◦ we can choose to think new thoughts
Busy, shallow thoughts can distract us from our deeper selves
We don’t have to fight horrific battles against thoughts in our mind
Sister Mary Margaret, “Thoughts come and thoughts go. Unaccompanied thoughts pass quickly.”
◦ if we do not engage a thought, it will dissolve on its own
Our thoughts are a key issue in our spiritual development
◦ Jesus reveals our thoughts to renovate our minds
◦ a purification of our thoughts improves our vision of God
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Mt. 5:8)
God throws us a challenge to think higher thoughts
. . . let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:7-9)
◦ God tells the wicked person, “Your actions are wrong”
◦ he tells the unrighteous person, “Your thoughts are wrong”
It is possible to transcend thought
◦ to be in pure awareness of the experience of the present moment
◦ to enter the mystery that is the kingdom of God

I’m going to turn now and come at this another way

This last week, reading in Luke I came across the following statement:
. . . where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Lk. 12:34)

I asked myself, “How do I know where my heart is?”
• What thoughts come to me most often?
• What thoughts do I use to console myself? (e.g., “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you” ; Ge. 27:42)
• What thoughts do I use to entertain myself?
• What thoughts give me hope?
• What thoughts trouble me?
• What do I think would make me happy?
• What am I thinking right this moment?
– the answer to each question reveals where my heart is
– my heart thoughts swirl around whatever I treasure

Conclusion: I’ve been trying to imagine, what would it be like

To have Jesus on my mind all day
– would I be more aware of how he blesses me than how others annoy me?
What would it be like to love him so much,
to be so enthralled with him that he was always present to me,
and my thoughts automatically returned to him–always
I imagine, that would be the best Christmas gift I could ever receive

My Christmas wish–my prayer–
is that each of us will enjoy a day like that;
a day when Jesus is everything to us
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36)

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