What did Mary ponder in her heart at the time of Jesus' conception, as he grew within her womb, and at the time of his birth?
The first words of the incredible miracle that included her were spoken by the angel Gabriel:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
When Mary questioned how that could be since she was a virgin, the angel replied:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:31-37)
The angel of the Lord later appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm to him that Mary's pregnancy was not a scandal after all, but was a miracle from the Lord.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Mary traveled to a town in the hill country of Judea to visit her relative Elizabeth (maybe to see for herself if what the angel had said was true). “When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!'” (Luke 1:39-45)
Because Mary stayed with Elizabeth three months, she may have still been there when John was born and could have heard Zechariah's prophecy (his first words spoken after 9 months of silence):
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days...
because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:68-75, 78-79)
Later in her pregnancy, Mary traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph at the time of Caesar Augustus' census, and Jesus was born while they were there. (This is a link to a very interesting article about how the conditions they faced were probably quite different from our traditional retelling of the Christmas story). Shepherds rushed in to see the baby Jesus after a great company of angels had filled the sky and told them of the “good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2:10) Another confirmation to Mary and Joseph of their child's special purpose. He would be the Savior of the world.
“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
After the time of purification according to the Law of Moses was complete, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer the required sacrifice.
There in the temple courts, they met Simeon, a righteous and devout man who was filled with the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit he had confidence that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and declared, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)
“The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.” (Luke 2:33)
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
At the temple that day they also encountered Anna the prophetess, who worshiped, fasted and prayed at the temple night and day. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)
And then there were the Magi from the east, who followed the star and came to Bethlehem to worship the new king of the Jews. They bowed down and worshiped the child Jesus, presenting him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-12)
Jesus. Whose arrival was proclaimed by angels. Who was blessed while in the womb by a joyful old pregnant woman. Who received Spirit-filled prophecy by a man who had been made mute by an angel. Who was born to a young woman who humbly believed that nothing was impossible with God. Who was given a faith-filled earthly father—who while not born of his own flesh and blood—believed in his miraculous conception. Who was first worshiped after his birth by common shepherds—full of awe--who could not keep this good news of salvation to themselves. Who was blessed in the temple by Simeon and Anna, who had been long awaiting the Messiah's arrival into the world. And who was worshiped by foreigners, Magi from the east. Recognized as the King of the Jews. King of all Kings. Savior of the World. Son of God. Prince of Peace.
Jesus continues to be “Good news of great joy for all people.” (We put these words up on our living room wall for Christmas three years ago and never felt like taking them down.)
One of our family's favorite songs is Chris Tomlin's “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” taken from Mary's song of praise in Luke 1:46-55.
As Mary pondered all the revelations about her son Jesus, her soul responded by magnifying the Lord.
May our hearts do the same as we reflect on the significance of Jesus' birth this Christmas season.