As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, one thought in particular seems to ring in my ears. Luke 2:19 - It comes after the shepherds have made their way to see this Savior born in Bethlehem, and after visiting with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, they spread the word of what they had been told about this child. Verse 19 tells us that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Have you ever wondered what exactly Mary "pondered" - what did she think about and contemplate as she cared for the baby Jesus, during the visitation of the shepherds, the kings, and then escaping into Egypt?
Many times this season the song "Mary Did You Know?" has played on the radio, and I always think: Of course she knew that baby Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior - she knew the prophecies, she grew up in a religious family - she would have heard the stories over and over again ... it was their hope! And then the angel Gabriel spoke to her. And her time with her cousin Elizabeth renewed that hope and brought comfort to her. But indeed, could Mary have known the full scope of what the future would hold for her as the mother of Christ or for her Son?
In the midst of her pondering ... her dreaming ... her thinking ... God knew that things must move forward. Baby Jesus taken to the Temple for dedication - the trip to Egypt. God's work is never completed. Mary had a strong faith, and it enabled her to know that no matter what the future held, God would be with her.
And that is where we find ourselves today. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, we begin to ponder about all that has happened in 2013, and we look forward to 2014. Hopefully you find yourself pondering on:
The blessings God has poured upon you.
The constant presence of God, even in difficult places.
All of the good news we hear about; people reaching out to one another in kindness.
The true Light we celebrate through all of the Christmas lights we display.
The promises of God that never fail.
As we move past Christmas, our challenge is to become more focused on God's work in our world and not listen to doomsday prognosticators, but to keep our eyes focused on God. To hear our Lord calling us forward, beckoning us to work for the Lord's kingdom of peace, joy and love.
The reality is, we can never know what God has planned for us that is a part of hope, waiting to see how God opens opportunities for us, nudges us to let go and risk new things. Then there is our willingness to open our hearts and our imaginations to God's design.
Might we take the advice found in II Peter 1:5-8: "make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness; and godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
May this Christmas be a time that finds us leaning into the future with hope, working to make God's kingdom come a little closer as we long for Christmas to come for everyone.