Luke 2:19: Learning to Ponder

Mary Pondering (610x351)At first listen, it sounds as if the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord, has it all wrong.  St. Luke tells us, “But Mary continued to treasure all these things in her heart and to ponder them” (2:19).  Isn’t Christmas a time for celebration, not pondering and meditation?

Ah, the contrast is striking.  Every year, the Christmas retail season starts earlier and earlier, even to ridiculous lengths, squashing Halloween and Thanksgiving in its forced, celebratory wake.  The hype gets more and more intense.  But the first Christmas was not an intense affair at all.  If anything, it was calm and quiet compared with today’s festivities.

Now, of course, you can’t blame people for trying to earn some money, in whatever honorable vocation they may have.  That’s why merchants push the start of the Christmas season even before it’s Advent in Christ’s Church.

From the entertainment industry, many of us know these words from a song we first heard long ago: “There’s no business like show business.”  And that song has a ring of truth, for even show business is a good business to be in–in its proper place.

But show business has no place in God’s business.  Christmas has its entertainment side and its retail side.  But tonight, God calls us to set all that aside.  For, this night, God does not gather us here to entertain us.  No, this night we are here on God’s business.

“And what is God’s business,” you might ask?   Tonight, He calls us to halt all the hustle and bustle of our hectic lives and this hectic season.  Why?  All so we might again discover the life-creating words of pure, full-strength joy, which the angel proclaimed long ago to the rough-hewn shepherds: “Today … a Savior has been born for you.  He is Christ the Lord” (2:11).

Yes, you and I can learn much from the young, Virgin mother, Mary.  What exactly did she “ponder” in her heart?  It wasn’t the trappings that many have come to expect in this season.  She did not ponder extravagant gifts or bright, blinking, colorful lights.  She did not wish for the carols of her childhood or for glistening, newly fallen snow that glows with a mystic halo over hearth and family.  Such trappings lay far in the future.

We do not find Mary’s heart enchanted by any such novelties.  No, what she pondered in her heart was what the angel of the Lord had spoken to the rugged shepherds about her baby boy, “Christ the Lord.”

Mary looked down at the tiny baby snugly wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in an animal’s feeding trough, His manger bed.  Could it be that He is the Lord, the God of heavenly armies?  Could it be that this baby boy who suckles at my breast is the God who feeds all creation?  God opens His hand to satisfy the desire of every living thing!  Yet, how could He come to be so small that He would take flesh from within my womb to be born as a helpless, infant boy?

The angel had announced “good news of great joy, which will be for all the people” to the shepherds.  This was no pipe dream or human speculation, for these words were from the mouth of God.  Mary’s Son, the Firstborn, was none other than the Messiah, the promised Redeemer, God in human flesh and bone.  So Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

So then, how can we do any less than Mary on this most-holy night, when the stars are brightly shining?  For when everything is said and done, we have nothing that we can say or do, which could add any brilliance to the luster of this day.  The most-heartfelt music or dazzling-light display could never hold a candle to the simple wonder of a heart captivated by our gracious God, who loved the world that He gave His one-and-only Son.

When we could not go to God, He came to us, wrapped in swaddling clothes.  This is the mystery in the manger–God is in diapers, here among us.  It is God in a crib.  And then some 30 years later, He is on a cross, made to be sin for us that He would forever remove the curse of sin and the sting of death.   Despite what you and I deserve, “whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

That’s the gist of Christmas.  Everything else will fade.  The glitz and glitter will soon fade away, not to reappear for another year.  The children’s and grandchildren’s excitement and the happy glow of what we’ve come to expect from this holy night are illusive and fast fleeting.  All too soon they’ve come and gone.  But not the treasure in your heart, which is the mystery of God made flesh for your salvation.

In faith, let Mary lead the way this night.  Set show business aside and get down to God’s business.  Shut down your head and open your heart to receive the greatest, joyous words that Christ is born a child.  “Let ev’ry heart prepare him room.”

For God comes among us, wrapped in the swaddling clothes of the Word of His Gospel.  He comes for every soul distressed and lonely and grieving.  He comes for every wounded mind and heart.  He comes for peace that passes all understanding, for forgiveness, for life and our salvation.  This night, He comes for you and you and you.  And you can be sure of this: “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”  Amen.