It’s relatively easy for me to picture the celebration surrounding Jesus’ birth. From live nativities to Christmas card sketches, there are plenty of models to prompt one’s imagination. We know it was a bit
chaotic with dirty shepherds swarming into the birthing room, angels swirling above singing their hearts out, and a cacophony of animal sounds protesting the invasion of their feeding trough. It was, no doubt, an untamed, raw, crowded, and glorious event.
In the midst of the din, Mary is said to have treasured “all of these things” in her heart (Luke 2:19). She pondered them. She hid them deep in her soul. I wonder if she knew then that someday she would desperately need to re-live those bewildering moments.
Fast-forward a year to Jesus’ first birthday – also known as his first Christmas. The scene was much different. No more partying shepherds, regal kings or singing angels. In fact, there was no family, no friends, nothing even vaguely familiar. Now there was just a mom, a dad, and a toddler living far away from home in the desert lands of Egypt. As expats, they were enveloped in uncertainty, isolation, and fear.
It could have been a time for deep despair. Instead, I tend to think it became a time for reflection and pondering. In the dust and dissonance of a strange land, Mary likely focused on those memories that were hidden deep in her heart. Memories of angels’ visits, traveling over rough terrain with her betrothed, giving birth, welcoming visitors who worshiped the baby, fleeing home, and learning to be a mother. Mary pondered all these things.
It is in the deserts of this season that we have an opportunity to ponder, to quietly inhale the reality of Advent. For Mary’s baby, the Christ child, the Son of God, the King of Glory, has come to us. He brings hope. He brings new life.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:9 NIV