But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:19 NRSV
Despite being one of the most well-known women of the past two millennia, we actually know very little about Mary of Nazareth. Much has been written, but the biblical record of her life is sparse. Even what little we have has been subject to various interpretations. For example, did she or did she not have other children after Jesus? We don’t know how old she really was when Jesus was born, how she parented, or when she died.
We do know that Mary was thoughtful. Faced with the angel Gabriel’s “Greetings, favored one,” Luke records that Mary “pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” After the shepherds’ visit on the night of Jesus’ birth, again, Mary pondered what they had told her of angels’ pronouncement – a Savior and Messiah.
New Testament scholar and author Dr. Karoline Lewis observes, “‘Pondering’ literally means things are being thrown together and you’re having to figure out what’s going on.” In pondering, Mary is actively looking for how all of this holds together, what is the common thread in angelic choirs, farmhands, a feeding trough, an oppressive empire, and God’s savior born in an animal stall.
Two thousand years later, we, too, are asking “How does this all hold together?” Pandemic, climate change, social unrest, unrelenting poverty, geopolitical instability, our own personal challenges, that all may feel monumental and perhaps more than we can bear. Like Mary we are invited to ponder things that may be throwing us for a loop and ponder God’s answer to our questions, frustrations, and confusion in the hope born in this child, the blessing of Christmas, the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, now and always.