“Pondering”

Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Eve, Year A - 24 December 2013

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 1:26-38

Luke 2:1-20

 

Prayer.

 

Quiet fills the moment

for a young woman to ponder.

 

“Ponder” is a middle English word,

Webster reports,

first used in the 14th century

that means

to weigh in the mind,

to think about

or reflect on,

to think or consider especially

quietly,

soberly,

and deeply.

 

When I think of one pondering

my mind takes me to Auguste Rodin’s famous figure

“The Thinker”

a commonly recognized symbol of philosophy and learning.

“The Thinker” sits atop the gates of hell,

inspired by Dante’ “Divine Comedy”.

Sadly, I found no classical example

of women thinking,

or pondering.

There are a lot of photo stock images on Google Images,

but nothing from the great artists.

Ponder this evening

causes one to go all the way back

to the Gospel of Luke,

in the original Greek:

  • “dielogizeto: def - to reason.”

  • “sumballousa: def - to throw together thoughts.”

Pondering causes

one to be led back

to Mary.

 

The angels words

“Greetings, favored one!”

caused Mary to ponder.

Luke records: she was much perplexed by his words

and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel Gabriel’s delivers his revelation from which

Mary draws her pondering to conclusion:

““Here am I, the servant of the Lord;

let it be with me according to your word.”

Pondering leads to acceptance.

 

On this dark evening,

a bunch of angles swarm

a group of shepherds

keeping watch over their flocks.

The angels deliver their message

and it  results in a trek into town

to find the baby.

They report to the new teen aged mother

of their angelic encounter and revelation.

This, again caused Mary to ponder.

She treasured the words of the shepherds

and pondered them in her heart.

Pondering; does this appear

to be a maternal trend?

 

In a Gospel passage soon to be read

in some future Sunday,

Mary loses track of her 12 year old son

and returns to the Jerusalem temple

only to find Jesus sitting with the teachers,

where he was

“listening to them and asking them questions.”

Mary asks his son forthright,

“Child, why have you treated us like this?

Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Jesus said to them,

“Why were you searching for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

And his mother pondered all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51)

 

Pondering appears to be a common characteristic

of Mary, the mother of our Lord.

 

Let us look a little closer

at the Good News of Christmas.

 

Mary throws together her thoughts:

of an angel visit,

his report that she will

immaculately conceive,

and become the mother of God’s Son.

Now there is something one doesn’t hear every day!

 

Just imagine what Mary began to think about:

Explaining a pregnancy to a fiance,

to parents and family.

Would she be believed?

Would her fiance, Joseph, leave her,

knowing full well he wasn’t the father of her child?

Worse yet,

Would she be cast out and stoned to death as an adulterer?

Her conclusions might be the difference between life and death.

What about God working a miracle through me?

Me?

the mother of God?  

the mother of a Holy child?

With a snap back to reality,

Gabriel speaks,

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

In an instant, Mary responds,

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;

let it be with me according to your word.”

 

Mary’s pondering began with the temporal,

but ends with acceptance of the eternal.

“Fear not,”

eases the concerns of this world.

“Nothing will be impossible with God,”

brings Mary over the tipping point

and into the realm of Divine acceptance.

Pondering erases fear

and confirms her faith.

 

Just image Mary’s thoughts

all thrown together after the birth of Jesus:

Common, everyday shepherds come and seek them out

- just another couple caught up in the census

who couldn’t find a room

and were sleeping in the barn.

Shepherds came because they were told

to look for a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Who told you?

Angels.

Ah, angels.

Not just one, but a heavenly host, singing and praising God.

Angels, who began with the greeting, “Do not be afraid!”

Ah; nearly the same words as Gabriel.

This was certainly not too far out of the realm of possibilities,

given her own, encounter with Gabriel nine months earlier.

The shepherd’s report was,

“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,

who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

A Savior,

the Messiah,

the Lord.

Certainly, Mary remembered Gabriel’s promise:

His name will be Jesus,

he will be great,

called the Son of the most high.

He will be given the throne of David.

He will reign forever.

His kingdom will have no end.

Jesus will be holy.

Jesus is the Son of God.

Both the shepherds and Mary’s vision of Gabriel confirmed the same message:

Behold, our Savior has been born.

“Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Pondering takes a step back,

allows Mary to count to ten,

gives space for understanding to descend

and it brings with it humility.

 

At every moment of human development,

at every stage of life,

we develop convenient acceptance

of what is,

with a complete denial

of what is to come.

 

We pack our school agenda full of classes,

pencil in sports, and dance and drama club to fill in the rest.

How much time do we plan for

and engage in Mary like pondering?

What is God’s message given recent events?

Where is God leading me?

How do I fit into God’s greater plan?

 

We fill our calendars with work and family events,

vacations to take,

places to go,

kids and grandkids to pick up or drop off.

My Google calendar is chock full of no less

than 6 colored calendars,

in addition to holidays.

I did a search in my calendar of the word “Ponder”

and it came up empty.

Other than attending worship,

praying while I swim,

or closing my eyes at the end of the day before sleep overtakes me,

I fail to ponder;

and I suspect many of you do, too.  

 

In the third stage of life,

I can only imagine.

We retire with a fear

that keeping busy

can somehow delay decline and death.

Eventually, though,

it has been my observation,

pondering takes on a looking backwards point of view.

Many think about legacy,

what my life has meant,

and ask the question

have I made a difference?

Rare is the wisdom of an elder

who is so forward thinking

there is no hesitation in signing a 30 year mortgage at age 80,

Rare is the senior

who will initiate the conversation

of how God can use even me in my twilight years.

Who, besides those one would expect,

ponders about how age related conditions

might be linked with the cross of Jesus?

Who ponders about

how God has prepared life and built faith

so that acceptance comes

for the transition home?

 

Dear sons and daughters of Zion /

Dear East Rochester family and friends,

take time to ponder.

Join Mary

in pondering what the coming of Jesus will mean for our lives

and how we should respond accordingly.

Take the time to throw together your thoughts,

evaluate what God is revealing,

and consider

where God may be leading.

 

Allow your quiet pondering to began with the temporal,

but end with acceptance of the eternal.

Do not be afraid of the conclusions that are drawn.

“Fear not,”

eases the concerns of this world.

“Nothing will be impossible with God,”

can bring you and me,

like Mary,

over the tipping point

and into the realm of Divine acceptance.

May your fear be eased.

May your faith be confirmed.

And may you be led to joyful acceptance.

Amen.