Luke 2:19: Mary Pondered…

Now are the moments for deep reflection, the hour of contemplation. Linger in the depths of the word “ponder.” Like meditate, though less strenuous, conveying something more suited. Its Latin root, pondus, bespeaks of heaviness, of considering and weighing matters with care, to hold in balance.

Thus, “Mary treasured the shepherds’ every word, pondering them in her heart.” In quiet retrospection, she cherished those events adjoining Jesus’ birth, storing them close. To read St. Luke’s account is to, perhaps, picture the surrounding events as so.

The Angel’s Day, as Mary recalls. A heavenly sight, his presence humbling and bright, flooding her room with brilliant light. Lofty and grand, his voice resounded and boomed, radiating warmth and authority beyond worldly measure. Impassioned words, speaking with mastery, yet mixing with melody, his message, most profound.

The angel sang in holy tones of grace,
Leaving young Mary trembling and afraid.
Worse than winter’s wind, fright clung to her face
As if a glorious dream became unmade.
“Fair maiden,” he cried, “you will soon delight,
Bearing the Child of salvation and light.”

Again, Mary shivered, remembering God’s messenger.

A being so bright,
Flaming wings with grace divine,
Fearsome and sublime.

The angel sang of her Son, majestic and mighty. “God will give him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over Jacob’s House forever, his dominion never-ending” (Luke 1:32-33). Well she remembers her earlier confusion and fear. “How is this possible—I am without a husband?” The angel’s announcement stirs within her: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

The midnight sky stood still and stark
While Mary mused on what she heard:
Beneath celestial fire and spark,
She pondered her Lord’s every word.

Fiercest flames dash against the night,
Intense and hot, in fallen skies.
Now, Mary quakes no more in fright
But speaks a prayer to God on High:

Let this Child be, as You, Lord, said,
She prays with heart, both brave and bold.
Your will I seek to do, instead,
So Your salvation, we behold.

Did Mary, likewise, ponder her days with Elizabeth when she journeyed to visit her?

An old cousin, Elizabeth, with chin
And eyes enwrinkled as a map of time.
With pulled-back hair, exposing aged skin,
Belly pregnant, full as a summer vine.

In joy, they hugged. Then Elizabeth cried,
“Little John kicked!” her heart pounding inside!
“Blessed are you among women so fair,
And blessed is the Child, whom you will bear!”

Stunned, Mary sings, her song filling the room,
“Praise the Lord, and my spirit rejoices!”
In faith, they worship the God now en-wombed,
Tongues united with heavenly voices.

Kindred hearts, Elizabeth and Mary,
Cherishing God and His saving glory!

For three months, Mary stays with her elderly kinswoman until John is born. The Child in Mary continues to grow.

Other memories: the shock, anger, and overwhelming sense of confusion rush back. Anxiety courses through her veins as she glances at Joseph. A quiet man, he sat making no sound, his lack of words hanging dark as thunderclouds. The sheer force of his silence turned menacing, oppressive, and inescapable.

Without a word, he rises with a start, leaving her alone with only her thoughts for company. Of course, he went to bring back the rabbis to begin divorce proceedings, if he’ll even bother returning. What else can explain this long absence? Then, the law required betrothed couples who awaited marriage to divorce.

The following day, Joseph returns with no rabbis in tow. Sure of finding only folded arms and a scowling face, she discovers arms open and a beaming smile. Something is different, with only love emanating from his expression. Not only did he return, but as a changed man. The angel’s words echo: “Nothing can stand against God.”

Of course, Mary pondered why Joseph insisted she go. The census only requires Joseph, but his insistence means they will journey to Bethlehem. So, she wonders, seeking why as they travel. The roads are long, the travelers inconsiderate, but she rejoices, for Joseph knows the road to Bethlehem. Still, she didn’t understand; soon, the significance will become clearer.

At last, they arrive. The crowds and chaos startle her. Never did she experience such commotion. Brooding in her thoughts, Mary can’t believe how many travelers search for a spot to rest for the night: a place to offer shelter and respite from their labors.

The Lord provides, and they find a nook. A hovel housing livestock will be their refuge. Far from expected, they go to a stable full of animals and hay. Pungent smells of dung cling to the air, a musty, heavy blanket. Despite this less-than-ideal state, they consider themselves blessed with a place to lay their head for the night.

Strange odors surround Mary: hay, manure, and sweat from Joseph’s body as she embraces him, feeling secure. Without fear or worry, she nestles into him, taking comfort in his reassuring presence, finding solace amid the chaos. Beneath the blackened sky full of stars, underneath a stable roof, looming with aged beams, she accepts this sacred moment, a night different from every other.

A twinge became a pain, which grew and spread
Until she believed she might break apart.
Beside her, Joseph stood, such tears he shed,
Strengthening her with each beat of his heart.

At last, she pushed in desperation’s plight.
A brittle cry pierced through sin’s darkest night.
To Mary, God granted His only Son:
An act of saving love for everyone.

An abundant joy rushed through every vein,
Rejoicing in what God did yet again.
“My spirit delights in God’s every grace,
Praising my Savior in this humble place.”

Weary and spent, Mary fell fast asleep
In the arms of Jesus, whom He will keep!

Strange men, these shepherds, as Mary holds dear memories of that holiest night. “Don’t trust them,” her mother warned. Those rough-hewn keepers of sheep are an uncultured lot. In the tiny, dank stable, where the animals grazed near, they pushed past the cattle to huddle and behold her beloved Son.

Those shepherds gathered in awe of the sight
Before them, a baby in whom they delight.
One spoke of angels ablaze in the night,
Filling them with fear as they burned so bright.

Still as stone, in wonderment and mirth,
Their eyes, on Jesus of heavenly worth.
Asleep in a manger, of virgin birth,
Heaven is here; yes, on this ancient earth.

Awestruck and humbled by this holy sign,
Reverence fills the air, wondrous and sublime.
Eternal Peace enters earth’s fallen time,
Bringing salvation to all humankind.

The night stood still, and stars glittered and gleamed in the velvet sky. As if summoned by a whisper, they rose, one by one, bowing before Mary, Joseph, and the swaddled Messiah. Silent, the holy family bore witness to this extraordinary moment of affection and grace.

Taking their leave, she listens to their laughter echo through the streets, a chorus of yells and cheers bouncing through town. Again, Mary and Joseph laugh, their love as obvious as the midnight air. The babe between them, secure in God’s plan.

Deeply, Mary thought,
Musing on her memories
Preserved in her heart.

This glorious night calls us to ponder the mystery of Christmas. Of course, our minds cannot comprehend what the Lord did, arriving in human form to bring us hope and love. Such heavenly happenings are beyond our capacity to grasp. No matter, for faith seeks not to unravel everything, but believe.

Ah, but the Christ-child bids us to take such a spectacular stroll. Let us linger in the profound mystery of Christ’s incarnation, allowing its awe-inspiring reality to envelop us. We set aside our usual worries, uncertainties, and fears as we join Mary in this most extraordinary hour.

Tonight isn’t a night of rationality, but of remembering and rejoicing in God. This holy evening exists to let God’s sacred story of old lift us anew, for the Spirit to anoint your hearts with the gospel of Christmas. Consider God’s incredible grace as our hearts soar with bliss as we rejoice. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.”

Precious little magnifying and rejoicing occur in this dismal realm, a world of shadows and darkness. Enticed by our conceit, we turn away from God, convinced our power and wits will bring us success. So soon, we chase after the vanity of earthly reward, forgoing genuine joy in favor of a shallow existence. Remember, God understands what is best for His beloved, who creates something exquisite, meaningful, and eternal in your life.

In Christ, God makes and molds us into His saints, now sisters and brothers of Mary. Once, the Christ-Child dwelled inside her—as He does with us, born within by water and Spirit. Consider her gentle countenance when her tresses are gray and her face lines wrinkled with age. What awaiting griefs will she ponder?

Oh, the day of darkness and misery. The virgin mother stands beside a grotesque wooden cross, not a manger. In grief, she ponders her baby, now a man, his face drawn in pain. Not swaddling cloths but only nakedness wraps His tortured form. Soon, twilight comes, and He will die.

On the cross, two arms outstretched and nailed; now, God’s sign of love and sacrifice. Ponder with her His love for you, so deep, so vast, so high, to drain His final breath of life dry. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, the brightness of His glory. Now, whoever ponders and believes in Him will not perish but receive everlasting life.

So, she takes her Son. The Firstborn of the new creation, wrapped in cloth, laid inside a tomb. But ponder His resurrection, for He is risen—and so are you!

Yes, Mary’s heart gloried in God’s saving grace,
Pondering those things so deep in her heart.
Though darkness surrounded and seemed to encase,
Her heart still did glory in God’s saving grace.

Rejoice in your God as you go forth this night,
Not nearly as dark when you entered this place.
Glorify the Lord, in your Savior delight,
Rejoicing in God as you go forth this night. Amen.