What can we learn from Mary?
The Christmas story unfolds sequentially, strung together with a lot of “ands.” And everyone went to register. And they placed him in a manger. And the shepherds were watching their flocks by night. The word “but” appears only twice. The first time is likely the better known. It’s when the angel interrupts the shepherds’ acute stress response: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.’”
The second time, it’s Mary, and she’s not interrupting things so much as responding to them in her own special way. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Everyone else—the shepherds, the wise men, those who heard the story secondhand—were “amazed.” But not Mary. She felt something else. What was it? Having followed the star and found the baby, the shepherds promptly went out and starting spread the word. But not Mary. She did something else. What was it?
Mary knew the story too well to be amazed, having been its humble protagonist all along. She had literally carried the faith, and she had literally delivered it to the people. What now?
She sits and ponders.
She does so not with her mind but with her heart.
What is the meaning of Christmas? is a tough question. What do I really believe? is a tough question. Our answers may evolve; our understanding undoubtedly flickers. How could it not in the face of such a seemingly preposterous story? Most who hear it are amazed. You probably are. I know I am. What now?
What Mary teaches us is that—in response to the deep abiding mystery of Christmas—we can sit and treasure all these things and ponder them in our hearts. This is an acceptable response. And the very one that, perhaps ironically, can grant us the peace that passes all understanding.
What can we learn from Mary, who brought Jesus into the world but who is also just like you and me? What do we find when we, like her, treasure all these things and ponder them in our hearts?