In the Lectionary

December 24 and 25, Nativity (Luke 2:8-20)

Mary gives us permission to pause and ponder what we hear.

The glory of the Lord full-on. Angels appearing out of nowhere, singing and promising peace. Shepherds, at first trembling in their sandals, now glorifying and praising. And one quiet young woman, who has journeyed a long way and just given birth in a stable, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

Presumably, she is tired—giving birth to a baby, even a messiah, takes energy. How exhausted was she after Gabriel’s Annunciation, the celebration with Elizabeth, nine months of pregnancy, travel to Bethlehem, and getting punted to a stable to give birth? And now a bunch of ragged shepherds barge in on her and her newborn in the middle of the night.

She offers in the midst of all this chaotic excitement a beautiful gesture of repose: she remembers, and she thinks. The image here is powerful because readers know that she does have a long way to go in her understanding. Mary already knows much, but she does not know everything. It will get worse when she and Joseph present Jesus in the temple and she hears that a sword will pierce her own soul. We know the painful devastation that lies ahead, but here in this moment, surrounded by donkeys and shepherds, she is still treasuring and pondering, trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps she gives us permission to pause and treasure each word, every detail of the birth of the Christ child.