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December 9, 2021

A Posture of Pondering

Mary’s posture of treasuring and pondering is the most appropriate one we can take in the midst of this Advent season. Therefore, it is important for us to pause in the middle of the hustle and bustle, and to join Mary in treasuring and pondering.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19.

I’ve gotta be honest: I thought my Advent experience of 2020 was going to be a unique, singular event in my life. Perhaps I was simply unable to face it at the time, but I never truly believed that one full year later, I would be preparing candle liturgies, planning Advent readings, and practicing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” under most of the same COVID guidelines as last year. And yet, here we are.

Jesus’ assertion in Matthew 6:34 that “each day has enough trouble of its own” has never felt more true in my life. I can say with complete confidence that I have never lived through a year of days filled with more widespread anxiety, anger, disappointment, worry, and fear. Sometimes it seems as though I experience all of these emotions within the same hour!

I distinctly remember this time last year looking ahead to 2021 with eager anticipation. I wondered how soon my life might return to “normal” in 2021. When might I be able to return to some of the events and activities I had missed the year before? How quickly would I be able to gather again with extended family for birthdays and celebrations? And when could I send out invitations for the face mask bonfire I had planned to hold in my backyard!? This year, however, my anticipation is much more muted; tempered, perhaps, by the pandemic’s indefinite prolongation. Perhaps yours is, too.

And yet, our belief in the absolute sovereignty of God reminds us that nothing happens by accident, nothing happens without a purpose, and nothing happens outside of God’s perfect sense of timing. So lately I’ve been reminding myself that these past 19 months should not be relegated to the rear recesses of my brain or sent to my mental recycling bin, no matter how much I think I’d like to forget them.

Thinking about the last several months of our lives makes me think about the last several months of Mary’s life leading up to today’s reading. Any feelings of uncertainty, wonder, and fear that we have experienced lately must pale in comparison to what Mary felt. I am highly favored? I will be with child? I will give birth to the Son of the Most High? And his Kingdom will never end?

And yet, at the end of those uncertain months, we find Mary at the manger, holding in her hands the fruition of all of God’s redemptive promises to her.

Let’s pay special attention to the verbs used in this part of Luke 2. While angels are appearing, praising, saying, and leaving, and while shepherds are hurrying, finding, spreading, glorifying, and praising, Mary is still. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle going on around her, St. Luke tells us that Mary did two things: she treasured, and she pondered.

I don’t know about you, but I am much better at the praising, saying, spreading, finding, and hurrying parts of life—particularly as it relates to my life as a worship pastor. But as I reflect upon this story, I can’t help but think that Mary’s posture of treasuring and pondering is the most appropriate one we can take in the midst of this Advent season. It’s the posture of someone whose experience has taught them the unshakable truth that God is in control. It’s the posture of someone who has learned that the plans and purposes of the Lord stand firm forever (Psalm 33:11). It is the posture of someone who has learned that, while God invites us to participate in his plan, he has no need for us to attempt to orchestrate it! In short, it’s the posture of trust.

So no matter how much remains on my to-do list today, or how eager I am to push ahead to Christmas morning and the promise of the much-needed rest that follows it, I think it is important to pause in the middle of the hustle and bustle, and to join Mary in treasuring and pondering. How has God proved faithful to you this year? How has he used the challenges of this year to grow you and form you? How has God shown his provision and protection to you in new and unexpected ways? Where did God show up and show out when you were at the end of your rope?

So take a few moments today to treasure, and to ponder. Remember what God has promised, and reflect upon what God has fulfilled and is fulfilling in the advent of Jesus—the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Anthony Bolkema is the Pastor of Worship & Ministry at First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL and an Endorsed Worship Coach under the CRC Worship Ministries program. He lives with his wife and four children in the south suburbs of Chicago.