By John Bowen, Digital Content Manager, Salem Music Stations
"So the shepherds came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Have you noticed in this passage that there are two distinct reactions to the supernatural announcement of Christ’s birth – “Wonder” and “Ponder”? Those in attendance wondered at what the shepherds said, but Mary pondered what they said in her heart.
I admit the appearance of angels and the lighting up of the night sky from the glory of God would be simply amazing, but the reaction the bystanders had (from the Greek word “wonder”) was shock, astonishment, amazement, or even to query whether something is true or possible. It’s as if they’re saying, “What?? What the heck are you talking about? That’s unbelievable!”
In contrast to these frozen in their astonishment and even disbelief, was Mary, who, we’re told, treasured what the shepherds said and pondered it in her heart. Translate “ponder” from the original Greek and we get a picture that she meditated on and contemplated what they said. She “chewed” on their words slowly like a fine chocolate candy. She “meditated” and “contemplated” on what they said, like you would a love letter; reading and re-reading those lovely words and taking the sentiments into your heart. Mary took this in; realizing that THIS Child was more than a mere child. THIS Child was sent from God, and worthy of such an angelic celebration!
Having attended many Christmas Eve services at churches through the years, I have observed that there are basically two types of people in attendance at that particular event – those who HAVE to be there, and those who WANT to be there.
I have this picture of those who HAVE to be there are being dragged there by friends or family members, maybe to adhere to some family tradition – or to make Granny or some aunt happy. For this person who is attending church because of coercion, there is little to no heart connection to the Christmas story. To them, it may well be a myth; a fantasy that could have come right out of the pen of J. K. Rowling. Let’s call these folks “the wonderers” as they might spend their time wondering at the Christmas story. “What?? What the heck are you talking about? That’s unbelievable!”
Then, there are “the ponderers”, who have taken the Christmas story to heart, receive it as history, and are there at church because they WANT to be there. That’s me. While I have never seen angels myself, I have seen God at work in my life. I have felt Him in my conscience and my heart. I look back on my life path and I see His fingerprints all over it; leading me from hopelessness to hopefulness, from drug addiction to sobriety, from darkness to light, from death to life. That, to me, is as real as the appearance of angels, giving me every reason to ponder how this Christmas story has personally and eternally changed me - while I treasure it in my heart.
So how about you? Are you a “wonderer” or a “ponderer”?
In your mind, do you wonder how the Christmas story can even be true; that it’s a well-devised yet impossible fable? Or, are you a ponderer; reflecting on a real miracle that took place? Are you meditating on the ramifications of the Christmas story -- that a holy and eternal God reached through time and dimension itself into our fallible finite broken world, in order to send a Savior, Who would make it possible for US to spend eternity with Him?
Be like Mary. Be a ponderer.