Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, and pondered them in her heart”
I’m sipping coffee and enjoying the last remnants of our Christmas tree. Only a week ago there was a pile of presents under it, and the anticipation of Christmas loomed in the air. The twinkly lights had purpose in lighting the way to the big day, and the kitchen was full of food to be saved for the relaxation of the season.
Now the Christmas season is winding down and we move towards the beginning of a new year. I’m left with the feeling of, “Now what?” I wonder if Mary felt the same way. The build up to the birth, the guiding star, the celebration of the host of angels bringing tidings of great joy to the shepherds. Come and see! A child is born! We of course embellish the story with the three kings arriving the night of his birth, a drummer boy coming to give his gift of song, and a crowd of animals fill out our manger scenes on our mantles, which makes the event feel like the party of the century. I wonder if once everyone left and Mary and Joseph started to make their way home, I wonder if she asked herself, “Now what?”
The arrival of Christ was anticipated for hundreds of years, yet they are to welcome their coming king in the form of a baby who couldn’t hold his own head up. Life is full of these moments, the anticipation of a promise, the arrival of the day, and then the waiting, wondering what you’re supposed to do as you await the fulfillment of your promise. These waiting days, years and decades are so hard.
It is these phases of life that I think most of us struggle with the most, the beginnings of promises, yet waiting on the fulfillment of them. The Israelites leave Egypt, yet how long did it take to reach the promised land. The promise of a nation to Abraham, yet it was Joseph that saw the beginnings of it. Still, at this season, I think of Mary, who pondered all that happened in her heart, and then took her new baby boy in her arms and began the long journey home from the census. What did she think about as they went home? I imagine her riding that donkey, looking down at her fresh baby boy and I bet she was terrified.
I wish there was a “Book of Mary”, describing what it was like taking baby Jesus home. There were no angels showing up to help with the day in and day out of changing diapers, feedings, daily tasks of cooking meals and cleaning up. There was no angel-nanny to relieve her of her duties or help with the loneliness of being a new mom. Mary was now entrusted with the promise, the day to day responsibility of raising the Christ. Something tells me there is a lot to be learned in this stage of Christ’s life. The patience, the waiting, the confusion around being given such a responsibility, yet not seeing the fulfillment of the word for decades.
When we are given a promise from God he trusts us with the entirety of that promise. Mary’s story does not end with, “You will give birth to a son and name him Jesus, and he will be the saviour of the world!” When God chose Mary for this task he also chose her for the daily grind of raise Jesus. He trusted her with the task of brining up his son, of disciplining him as his mother, of loving him as his mother, of nourishing him as a mother. He saw Mary and said, “Yes, this is the one to be entrusted with the birth of my son, and the raising of my son.”
The gospels go right from the birth of Jesus to the ministry of Jesus, yet it was Mary who bridged the gap. It was the daily grind of being a mother that fills in those gaps. I feel I’m in the gap right now. I feel there has been a promise, though I couldn’t even properly put it into words, and I feel I am in the daily grind of bridging the gap to the fulfillment. Right now, between the waining of Christmas, and the coming of what is not yet, I am finding my solace and empathy in imagining Mary, holding her bundled baby, riding a donkey home, wondering “Now what?”