December 13, 2020
3rd Sunday of Advent
The angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. ~ Luke 1:28-29
Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. ~ Luke 2:19
When I was four years old and living in Baltimore, Maryland, I once stood on top of a bridge with my legs spread far apart. Billy, my friend, stood in a dry creek bed ten to fifteen feet below me and threw rocks between my legs. His first two throws were beautiful, and the small rocks flew between my legs. For some reason, Billy and I thought this was so amazing. His third throw was not so accurate.
I ran home crying with blood flowing from my forehead. My dad ran outside to check on me, and he asked what happened. I was crying so hard I could not talk; my good ole dad hugged me tight. Finally, I was able to tell Dad my tale of woe and he let me go, looked me in the eyes, and said, “What were you thinking?” My answer, “I wasn’t.”
As we grow up and into adulthood, we probably continue to have some “what were we thinking” moments. Sometimes these moments are harmless, and sometimes they can be quite serious. As we move closer to Bethlehem and Christmas this year, we can draw wisdom and guidance from Mother Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel.
Mary is scared. This news of being pregnant by the Holy Spirit seems unfathomable. She will bear the Son of the Most High? How can this be?
Mary ponders the angel’s visitation (Luke 1:29). To ponder is to think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. To ponder means to try to think something through in all its depth and implications.
When we are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed out, what do we do? Do we react in haste? Are we compulsive? Do we think things through? Do we have the faith of Mary to stop and ponder?
I remember calling a former devout member of our church. I would ask her, “Would you like to read scripture this Sunday?” She would always pause and say, “Let me think about it. Is it alright if I call you in a few days?” She was pondering.
Jim Forest says, “There are times not to answer the door, not to answer the phone, not to do undone things, but to rest in silence (to ponder) from everything. The world can wait for 5 minutes. In fact, no matter how busy we are, no matter how well organized, no matter how little rest we allow ourselves, we will never do all that needs to be done. But to do well what we are called to do; it is essential to nurture a capacity for inner stillness.”
Mary ponders the angel’s words. She pauses, she reflects, she muses, she goes deep before she says “yes” to God. When we are unsure or confused, do we stop and ponder? Do we seek guidance from the Holy Spirit?
After the angels visit the shepherds in the fields, they go with “haste” to Bethlehem and find Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus. The shepherds tell their wonderful, surreal story of the angels appearing in the night sky. “They made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them,” (Luke 2:18).
But what does Mary do when she hears the shepherds’ story of a multitude of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven”? Everyone who hears the story is amazed, and I think it’s safe to say that they start talking and telling their friends what the shepherds told them.
To this day we are still talking about the shepherds’ story. “That’s amazing.” “There’s no way that could happen.” “How can anyone believe that?” “You just need faith.”
Mary does not talk; she is silent. “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19). Mother Mary is a contemplative who lets words, stories, songs, and experiences inform her at a very deep level. She sits with the story.
May we let the Christmas story and words gestate within us.
May we ponder with Mary.
May we give birth to Christ’s hope, peace, joy, and love this season.
Blessings and peace,
Practice: Like Mary, ponder something that is on your mind. Just sit with it. Ask God for guidance.