“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus . . .” You know the rest. After a lifetime of Christmas Eve services, you may be able to recite Luke 2 from memory. It’s the precious record of God’s eternal plan of salvation coming together in the fullness of time. Who could forget the journey to Bethlehem, the Baby laid in a manger, the choir of angels, and the shepherds rushing to see the Savior?
But there is one small verse which is easily passed over. It might almost seem like an afterthought. Verse 19 reads, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (ESV) How often do you “ponder”? In the original Greek, the word means “to throw together in one’s mind” or we might say, “to toss things around, mull them over.”
Who has time for that, especially in this busy season? Is it all you can do to give emails a quick glance? Do you find your attention drifting if a phone text is more than two sentences? In our long lists of self-imposed Christmas preparations, does pondering find a place?
Mary must have had all kinds of practical matters on her mind too. She had a newborn to care for while living miles from home in temporary quarters. Where would Joseph find food and shelter in coming days? How would they let family know about the birth? Yet with all that, Mary took time to “treasure up all these things and ponder them in her heart.”
She recalled the angel’s unexpected visit and the shocking news that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God. There was so much to ponder: her own unworthiness and God’s incredible grace, not only toward her but all humankind. As she cared for the infant Jesus, she could see and ponder God’s promise fulfilled. The eternal God Himself had humbly entered His creation as true Man to save not just the powerful and influential, but even ordinary shepherds. How sad it would be to miss the peace and joy of God’s Gift under the clutter of all the things going on in the world and the hectic busyness of the season.
Ponder the Gift. You won’t regret it. In January none of us says, “I wish I had watched TV instead of attending Wednesday Advent services. I wish I had spent Sunday mornings shopping.” Read Luke 2 again and ponder each verse. Marvel at how the Lord used a heathen emperor and current events of the time for His purposes. Think how small and insignificant we are among the billions in the world. Why should God even notice us sinful mortals? Turn over in your mind and heart the wonder of God’s love in the person of the Word-made-flesh. He did not come just to see our desperate situation. He came to be our righteousness by fulfilling all our obligations. He came to take upon Himself the death we deserve. From Luke 2 go to John 1 for even more divine truths to ponder.
Ponder the Gift. Then go to the manger and worship with the shepherds. May our “pondering” lead to joyfully “proclaiming” all the wonders God has done!
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.