Post Christmas Pondering…

Posted by on Dec 29, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

It is unfortunate that New Year rushes in so quickly after Christmas. No sooner have we finished singing the final bars of ‘O Come, all ye faithful’ than our thoughts gallop forward to the promise of the year ahead. Worthy resolutions quickly spring to mind, and the babe of Bethlehem is tucked away for another year. The basic problem is that we are catapulted into thinking about what we are going to do, rather than being encouraged to spend time thinking about what God has done. Perhaps on this one we should join Orthodox Christians, who celebrate Christmas on or near to Jan 7 each year. Their reason: 7 January on the Gregorian calendar was 25 December on the Julian calendar which pre dates it, and Orthodox Christians are unswerving in their belief that the older the tradition, the better.

Whatever… let’s not side tack onto that fascinating red herring. I’d rather reflect on what it means to keep pondering Christmas in your heart.

Luke 2:19 tells us that after the shepherds had visited Mary and her newborn, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

It was a scene she would replay over and over again. It had been such a heady time. Her own visitation by the angel Gabriel, the strange reception she had received by her also pregnant aunt Elizabeth, the traumatic trip to Bethlehem, culminating in her giving birth in circumstances far from ideal – and then a visit by shepherds who said they had heard angels singing that the birth of her son would bring joy to all the people. It must have been overwhelming. How do you take all that in – especially when you are trying to get breast feeding going and are having to cope with all the challenges faced by any new mother. I imagine it was as though she took a photo of each remarkable step in her journey and tucked it away for further thought and reflection when life was a little less hectic.

It was not the only time Mary was to do this. Luke 2:51 informs us that after Mary and Joseph misplaced their then 12 year old son Jesus, later finding him at the temple in Jerusalem rapt in adult theologizing with the teachers of the time, she treasured all these things in her heart. That one is easy to understand. A mother, receiving yet more confirmation that her son was anything but ordinary, holds on to each of the signs given. Did they fill her with joy, or dread, or both?

Perhaps it was her reflection upon these incidents that made her willing to gently nudge Jesus towards his first miracle – changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Recorded in John 2, verse 3 has Mary pointedly telling Jesus They have no more wine. It is more than an observation. It is an invitation. Use this opportunity to show what you can do. Jesus is reluctant to take the hint, and doesn’t want to get involved. Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come. Ah, Jesus saw more clearly than Mary that once his ability to perform miracles became public there would be no turning back from the path that would open up. And he knew where that path would ultimately end. Had Mary forgotten Simeon’s words to her, so soon after his birth? Her son would indeed cause the rise and fall of many in Israel… And then he had said those haunting words. And a sword will pierce your own soul too (Luke 2:35).

Even though Mary pondered the Christmas miracle in her heart, she had her moments of doubt. Mark 3:20-35 recalls the time when Jesus’ family try to stop his ministry. Their argument is brief and to the point: He is out of his mind (21). When the crowd inform Jesus that his mother and brothers are looking for him, he looks at the circle surrounding him and announces, Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (34-35). What was that all about? We don’t really know. Was it a moment of panic on Mary’s part, as she saw large crowds following her son and wondered if she would now lose him. Or was she simply confused? Or doubtful? Or overwhelmed. She had pondered after his birth, but when God is at work can you ever really fully understand all that takes place?

Keep playing it forward. Now we see Mary, standing close to the cross of Jesus. John’s gospel puts it poignantly: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… (19:25). What was going on in the pondering heart of Mary at that moment. Is this what she had anticipated? Did it seem to her that all her hopes and dreams were being dashed and shattered at Calvary? Was she able to hold on to what had been promised… or was it overwhelming… every nightmare and dread moment suddenly springing into life?

She had so much to ponder, that first Christmas.

And so do we.

Did God really visit this planet?

If so, nothing can ever be the same again.

Christmas over for another year… nonsense. Christmas has only ever, just begun…

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this timely and beautiful post, Brian.

    Perhaps you might be interested in a post I wrote for Christians for Biblical Equality shortly before Christmas, based around the beautiful modern carol, “Mary, Did You Know?” You can find it here: http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/mary-did-you-know

    • Thanks Bronwyn. Your post is fantastic. I first read it at Scot McKnight’s Patheos Jesus Creed blog, and was glad that he picked it up as it really deserves a very wide reading.

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