Years ago, the Minnesota Vikings had a quarterback by the name of Christian Ponder. I always thought his name should have an application in an article or a sermon, but I could never find one… until now.
Now there is a great difference between ponderous and pondering. To say Christian played football ponderously would be insulting, as it means “clumsy or unpleasantly dull.” To say he pondered football is not so bad, as that means “thinking about it carefully before reaching a conclusion.”
What is the purpose of Advent? Why do we “do” Christmas yearly? Warm tradition? Obligations of the Church Year? Or is this the time to “think about it carefully before reaching a conclusion”?
“… and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18-19). What did she ponder? The message of the angels, delivered through shepherds: “Good news that will cause great joy for all the people… a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (2:10-11). Mary was personally involved in this, yet the shepherds’ words shed new light on her experience, something to carefully think about.
Twelve years later, young Jesus stayed behind at the temple following the Passover Festival, leading to his family’s frantic search for him. “Then [Jesus] went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51). Just as she had treasured and pondered the shepherds’ words, now Mary certainly pondered this event and Jesus’ explanation: “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (2:49).
Some eighteen years pass and the whole family is invited to a wedding in Cana, only to encounter a social disaster—no more wine! Because, and only because, Mary had pondered and treasured all these things about Jesus, she now was able to make the simple but telling statement to Jesus, “They have no more wine” (John 2:3). Apparently, Jesus had never performed a miracle in his life, but in her pondering, Mary was convinced of who Jesus was, and she therefore knew that he could. First she pondered, then she knew for certain.
Mary was blessed to receive several revelations from God that caused her to ponder Jesus. But we have received much more! “For to us a child is born… And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
We celebrate Advent and Christmas yearly for exactly this purpose. So, Christian… Ponder!
Rev. Brent Juliot is Contributing Editor of F&F magazine and Pastor of Living Hope Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.