I would consider myself a thinker. I like to contemplate, think, and ponder on situations, experiences, and decisions. However, for many of us (including myself), the problem is that we get caught in the rat race of life and move at the speed of time that we fail to slow down long enough for pondering. This is especially true around the Christmas season. We have to go there, prepare for that, buy these, and wrap this. In fact, just the other day my wife was overwhelmed because she had 25 things on her to-do list. I’m sure you can relate.
Although we may find the time to ponder nonexistent, or scarce, doesn’t mean we don’t need to carve out time to do so.
One of my favorite verses of Scripture for the Christmas season is found in Luke 2:19, which states, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” With a newborn baby—never mind the fact that he was God—Mary stopped to treasure the birth of her first baby, Jesus, by pondering on all the events and experiences that had led up to that moment.
What were some of the things that raced through Mary’s mind? What do you think were some of her thematic highlights? I could imagine Mary having at least three thematic thoughts enter her mind as she sat pondering the Advent (the first coming of Christ) and the first Noel (Christmas).
First, I think the thought of GLORY crossed her mind. Why would glory cross her mind? Sure, she heard from the shepherds the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased.” But, remember the essence of the word glory means “weight.” Glory also, in many places, refers to the presence and acts of God as well as the beauty, majesty, and splendor of God. Thus, when contemplating and pondering the events and experiences of her pregnancy and delivery, why wouldn’t the thought of the “weight” (the glory) of God come across her mind ?
If you remember, God sent Gabriel to tell Mary the wonderful, yet terrifying news that she would be pregnant with the “Son of the Most High” before marital consummation. The news itself would act as the weight, or glory, of God upon her life. In addition, her pregnancy would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit coming upon her, depositing the “seed” who would crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15), who would assume the throne of David (2 Sam 7). Through the entire process—a process that was filled with highs and lows—God filled, sustained, and calmed Mary as he worked to fulfill the divine promises made in antiquity. Talk about the glory of God!
I could imagine as Mary sat pondering the first Noel, basking in God’s glory as she held Jesus, her heart welled up with praise—much like it did in Luke 1:46–55. This doesn’t mean that the last nine months of her life were easy and uneventful. The reality is, they were difficult, challenging, and wrought with hurt, heartache, and pain. And her future with this baby wouldn’t be any easier. Yet God saw and would see her through! Yet God brought her to the place of delivery and would sustain her through Calvary! Yet God gave her and would continue to give her unspeakable joy!
When we pause long enough to ponder the Advent and the journey (no matter what kind of journey it was or is) over the past year, I believe we will find ourselves basking in the glory (the weight) of God, which leads to the praise of his name and our lives continuing to live for his fame.
How has God’s glory (presence, power, and provision) been manifested in your life this past year?
Second, I think the thought of GRACE crossed her mind. Why would grace come to her mind? Probably because as she peered into the eyes of God, trough the baby Jesus, she more than likely counted and recounted the blessings of the past year and how she had become the mother of the Son of God, the hope of Israel, and the means by which God would bless the nations.
I want us to keep in mind the difficulty of her pregnancy. Mary was having a baby out of wedlock, in a culture that would stone, or at the very least, disown women for doing so. Mary was the town’s “hussy,” the butt of jokes, and the moral leper. Yet, as she thought through the past nine months, pondering the Advent of baby Jesus, I am sure she recounted the grace that had been shown her.
I am sure Mary recounted particular events that transpired where God’s grace was at work. For instance, why choose Mary above all the other Jewish women who were of the line of David? Grace. Why give Mary a supportive husband who would, after an enlightening dream, love and care for her? Grace. Why give Mary an encouraging relative, namely Elizabeth, who was going through a similar pregnancy? Grace.
In addition, I’m sure Mary recounted the particular reasons why God was sending Jesus. The baby that she just gave birth to, that she held in her hands, was the promised Messiah who had come to save God’s people from their sins. What great grace! The baby uttering the cries of a newborn had heard the cries of mankind’s heart to be born again. What great grace! The helpless baby was God incarnate who had come to rescue helpless and hopeless sinners. What great grace!
The brand new baby boy who brought joy to Mary and Joseph’s heart would enter into his intended vocation of making all things new and bringing joy to and for the world. What great grace!
As Mary pondered the Advent as well as the first Noel I’m sure she sung psalms of God’s grace. In similar fashion, if we take time to ponder the Advent and our journey over the past year, I’m sure we will be able to recount the grace of God in our life. In doing so, we will find ourselves joining with other saints singing, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; Tis grace that taught my heart to fear and grace will lead me home.”
How has God’s grace been at work in your life this past year?
Third, I think the thought of GREATER THINGS crossed her mind. Why would the thought of greater things enter the mind of Mary? Although pondering the first Advent, the first Noel, and the events and experiences leading up to it was great, greater things lay ahead. What would the life of this child look like? What would this child, adolescent, teenager, and man do? As Mary thought about the future, she knew somehow, in some way, this baby was going to change, at the very least, Israel and probably the world.
As she pondered the coming of Christ she realized that the great things of God come with a price. Thus, I’m sure as she gazed at her precious baby she knew in her heart that the greater things he would do in the world would also come with a price. Given that the road to the first Noel was tough, she wasn’t naïve to think it was over. No, it really was just beginning. However, pondering what and who she held in her hands gave her the impulse and empowerment to look ahead toward the greater things that lay ahead.
Experiencing the great things of God instills into one’s heart the desire to see the greater things of God.
For Mary, the first Advent was incredible and special; and then to know that she would experience and encounter her son’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection would certainly be considered greater things. However, during Jesus’ ascension she would hear about a Second Advent, another one of God’s greater things yet to come.
During this Advent season, let us ponder the great things God has done. As we remind ourselves of the great things God has done, we will look forward in great anticipation to the greater things he has yet to do! Some might be a little cynical or pessimistic about the so-called greater things. But I am here to remind you of the greater thing of Christ’s Second Advent—when he will come with the full glory of his consummated kingdom and make all things new by fully righting every wrong, wiping every tear from our eyes, and eliminating disease, sickness, and death.
What have been some great things that God has done in your life this past year? What do you look forward to him doing in and through you this coming year?
In closing, the Advent season is a great time to reflect and ponder on how we have experienced God’s glory and grace over the past year. It is also a great time to remind ourselves of the great things God has done and to look forward in great anticipation to the greater things that lay ahead.
Merry Christmas and Gloria in Excelsus Deo!