Ponder Anew: A Sermon for Christmas Day

A Sermon for Christmas Day

Readings available here | Watch the recording here 

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 

Ever since I was a kid, if anything exciting or life-affirming or unbelievably good happened to me, I kid you not, I would say to myself, “But Leah treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” 

Now, I didn’t spend a lot of time as a nine-year-old analyzing what this passage might actually mean.  

But I think there was something about Mary’s reaction that just made sense to me. It felt honest. It felt real

That’s because the juxtaposition of those two words – Mary treasured and she pondered – seems to accurately summarize a common response to a particular human experience: 

The experience of receiving good news. Think about a time when you’ve received good news. You got the job you wanted. Or the surgery went well. Or the person you like, likes you back. Or you hear the piercing cry of your newborn baby for the first time. 

You are elated as you realize that life is better than you could have imagined even a moment ago. 

And you’re suddenly caught up in this urgent need to remember this moment, this moment that everything changed for the better. “Of course,” you say to yourself, “life is precious. How could you not have noticed this before?”  

You want to treasure what’s in front of you. 

And then, that observation of your own joy leads to another feeling: hope. All of a sudden, the whole world seems bigger and brighter.

You think: “if this one thing could work out, then maybe it could all work out. Maybe your life could be different than you imagined.”  

You piece together the old losses with the good news. You ponder anew what God is doing in your life. 

Because of this good news, your future is more unpredictable than ever, but in the best way. Everything feels possible now.

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 

Mary does what any of us would do when we receive good news beyond our expectation. She holds the words close to her heart, and she ponders what they could mean for the rest of her life. 

— 

Now, some of us might feel uncomfortable with the idea that Mary doesn’t already know the whole story. We sometimes try to impose a kind of stagnant perfection on Mary, making her into the perfect, all-knowing disciple.

But if Mary already knows everything – if there’s no need to ponder – her complicated and relatable humanity is downplayed by a cliché. We turn her into someone who doesn’t get to ask any questions about the nature of her call. 

Still, it’s fair to ask how Mary got to this point today, with the shepherds, acting as if she’s hearing good news for the first time.

— 

After all, just nine months ago, a literal angel showed up at her house and told her she would give birth to the Son of God. She even wrote a daring song about the experience, which we call the Magnificat

But nine months is a long time. And a lot has happened since then. The fear of being rejected by her fiance, Joseph. The morning sickness. The rocky journey to Bethlehem. Not to mention the labor and delivery.  

And now, she’s looking into the face of crying newborn. Maybe she’s wondering if she heard the angel right. The good news from nine months ago didn’t need a lot of pondering when it was just a hypothetical.  

But now the good news is real. There’s a baby to feed and raise. If this is the Savior of the world, how is she supposed to get him from point A to point B? From infancy to empowered deity? Who could really feel prepared for this? 

— 

It is important that the shepherds show up at precisely this moment. They assure Mary that she’s not imagining things. 

The good news – “the Savior is born today in the City of David” – is true. What the angel told Mary is true. What she and her people have been hoping for, for generations, is true.  

Life is better than she could have imagined even a moment ago. Because the good news is finally real. And, by some miracle, she is a part of the story. 

Jesus, the Savior – Christ, the Anointed One – is no longer a thing wished for, but a person.  

With the shepherds’ confirmation and affirmation, Mary is suddenly caught up in that familiar human experience: the need to treasure this gift, and to ponder anew. 

She still doesn’t know what the future holds, but she knows she has a future. 

Mary cherishes the reality that she gets to participate in the grand design of God. She allows herself the hope of imagining how beautiful her future will be because Jesus Christ is a part of it. 

Everything is now possible, because with God all things are possible. And God, in human form, is right here. 

— 

During Christmas, we, like Mary, receive the good news we’ve already heard. But, the fact is, we need to hear it again. We need confirmation and affirmation that the Gospel is true. That God is here. That we have a future.  

If the good news hits us just right, we get the chance to hold it close to our hearts. We get the chance to treasure the fact that we are participating in the unimaginably big story of Jesus Christ. And we get to ponder anew what the Almighty can do. 

Receive this news with hope: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord.” 

Amen. 

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