As I sat in a candlelight Christmas Eve service this year and pondered, my mind continued to rest on the fact that Mary’s heart pondered as well. My heart pondered and pounded during this season.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
She was pondering and treasuring. Was my heart treasuring as well or just pondering?
I pondered on the manger scene and what Joseph and Mary were each thinking. I pondered on what it would have been like to be the first to arrive to greet the baby Jesus. I pondered the state of Mary’s heart as well as the state of my own heart. Where was I this Christmas season?
We don’t always feel like we want to feel. We want Christmas to look a certain way or be a certain way. And I imagine for most people, there is at least one part of Christmas that doesn’t go how we want it to or feel like we want it to. We want it to be less hectic or feel more joyful. We want to have family gatherings to feel like family or for our families to not be divided or simply to have family to gather with. We want peace, stillness, simplicity like we can imagine fell upon the first manger scene. Yet often we find that our unmet expectations and the desires or our hearts are left as empty packages that aren’t even opened. And instead of treasuring in our hearts, we find it hard to embrace the reality and our hearts ache.
During these festivities, do we take the time to ponder and treasure? Do we embrace the things we have instead of all that we don’t have?
Perhaps, we have to choose to embrace what is before us. As I sat and pondered what was on Mary’s heart as she treasured the baby that was just born, I imagine that Mary was exhausted, still wondering who this Christ child would become, and pondering what the years ahead would be like to raise this tiny gift that was entrusted to her. I imagine she was exhausted from the journey and the labor process yet the adrenaline from the last nine months had also overtaken her as the reality of the Christ child was before her. It wasn’t Mary’s choice to have this baby. Yet it was her choice to embrace it, to treasure this child in her heart.
I imagine that this was not what Mary had expected for her life. She had had dreams of a family one day I’m sure, but this was not the way she had wanted to start. So much had changed in a small amount of time. It’s like in life when we have an unexpected turn in the path – a loss of a job, a sudden death, a difficult situation or perhaps an unplanned child – and when the unexpected comes, we have to make a choice. Sometimes we ponder. Sometimes we just react. We may find it hard to treasure in our hearts the new change that has happened and our new reality. Perhaps that was you this Christmas as it seemed different from Christmas past.
As I sat and looked at the lights around me and heard the merry sounds of song, I pondered on the fact that it’s the season itself that brings joy even if our hearts don’t feel joy. Sometimes joy has to be a choice when we find ourselves in a difficult season. If we were honest, we could all come up with ways we wished the last ten days had gone differently. More time, less fighting, someone that was missing to be there, reconciliation within families, finding a better deal, a morning of peace. We all long for that Christmas morning that Mary had – to treasure in our hearts all that is around us and to sit and ponder with goodness.
God is with us, in the easy and in the difficult. In the season of joy and the season of pain. In the celebrations and the darkness. I think that night as Mary sat there with babe in her arms, “God with us”, took on a whole new meaning. The Christmas season is not over – it’s really just beginning as He has now arrived. He is with us in flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. Let’s ponder and treasure a little while longer.