She kept all these things in her heart. This is what the ancient Scripture tell us. Mary kept these things in her heart, and she pondered it all.
She pondered that the shepherds came to her and Joseph and their newborn to see with their very eyes; pondered the astounding news that angels had somehow directed them; pondered that these same angels said that the child in this most humble of birthplaces was, in fact, the Messiah.
Of course, there are many things about that first Christmas that we don’t know.
We don’t know exactly how old the child Jesus was when the Magi came to visit. (We do know, however, that they later saw Jesus at his “house” not the manger scene, and we know, in all likelihood, while they came from three different regions of the East, these wise men likely numbered more than three.)
We don’t know what animals, if any, where in the so-called stable, or to what extent this stable was more a cave, or how any light got in the place, if someone got a torch to help light things up when the moment came, or if the light from the huge star overhead was somehow enough.
We don’t know what those angels – Gabriel in one scene, the so-called heavenly hosts in another – might have looked like, except that whatever they looked like, they were imposing enough to have to say “Don’t be afraid.”
We don’t know exactly what the shepherds looked like, either, although we can imagine, since they were on the lowest rung of the societal ladder, they weren’t the type to wear Gucci shoes.
We don’t know the exact content of those dreams, like the dream that warned young Mary and Joseph to flee the murderous Herod and go from Bethlehem to Egypt.
We don’t even know the real day of the year when Jesus was born, despite the centuries-old Dec. 25 designation for all sort of cultural reasons.
What we do know is that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. In other words, Mary didn’t go running up and down Main Street screaming about her special son.
We live in very different times. Nowadays plenty of people like to announce from the rooftops of social media the most banal of trivialities, things that pale magnificently to the news that the world’s saviour has entered the stage.
And, if nothing else, this is one more reason why even today, and why especially today, we need both Christ and Christmas … to ponder all these things in our hearts, that is to ponder what He in His own way is showing us.
Opening the Scripture and quieting ourselves even briefly and hearing the historic account of that first Christmas reminds us that it’s not what we know that really matters in this world. It’s largely what we don’t know on our own strength, that is God’s mystery revealed, as the account says, “for all people.”
And in this mystery of ‘God with us,’ the mystery of Emmanuel, the One that we can and can’t fully know, we have just what we need. We have enough. We have a gift that is perfectly suited.
Now, from Luke 2, the rest of the account, what our family and many others will read this Christmas Day. And ponder in our hearts.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while. Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”