“Mary treasured up all [the words of the shepherds] and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
In Luke’s account of the birth of Christ, we see angelic messengers proclaim the newborn king. Shepherds, the first recipients of this good news, share the message all over town. In what seems like a sharp contrast, Jesus’s mother quietly contemplates all of this. I think there are lessons in both the Old and New Testaments that can teach us about when to ponder and when to proclaim.
Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for every matter and a season for everything. What follows this declaration is a list of fourteen pairs of seemingly opposite events: birth and death, weeping and laughing, war and peace, etc. It is a beautiful piece of both wisdom and poetry. These truths resonate with people at some of the deepest levels, though they may never have realized that this truth comes from God’s Word. The American folk-rock group, The Byrds, set these words to music in their hit, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The song was an instant success, hitting the top of the charts in the US, the UK, and Canada. It has been covered by several other artists and remains an iconic song for both its music and message.
Though these paired events may seem to be opposites, when we take a closer look, we see they are deeply dependent on one another. Each one needs the other to exist. (Go ahead and read them for yourself now in Ecc 3:2–8.)
In a similar set of seemingly opposite events, Luke’s Gospel records Mary’s quiet, contemplative response to the shepherds’ proclamations of miraculous signs and wonders. The shepherds had heard promises and declarations directly from heaven itself and found everything exactly as the angels described. They could not hold back the great news and told everyone they could find. However, Jesus’s mother—certainly no stranger to miraculous events by now—keeps things to herself and ponders them in her heart, at least for the time being. This is an important lesson for us to remember: There is a time to ponder and a time to proclaim.
Western culture does little to reward pondering over proclaiming. Rather, it seems to reward a steady stream of barely constrained information through pictures, posts, and videos. Content creators on social media who are “influencers” are rewarded with likes, hearts, and follows. However, much of this content can seem shallow, irrelevant, and frequently ill-advised. The effect can snowball until viewers, readers, followers, and listeners demand more immediate content. The room for pondering is seldom encouraged or rewarded.
This is not limited to impersonal social media streams but can spill into our interpersonal interactions as well. Not long ago, I got into a rather tense discussion with a local businessman. The businessman was responsible for some damage to a piece of my personal property. This fact was not in dispute. When I asked for compensation and discussed how we might resolve the matter, the conversation became argumentative. He attacked my character and made all sorts of unfounded accusations. My immediate response was to tell him how wrong he was. The more I tried, the worse it got. My proclamations made little difference. Over the course of our three or four conversations, I debated how I would stand up for myself and witness the love of Christ in the situation. I gave it some time and space and, of course, gave it a ponder. I tried to consider how I had appeared to the businessman and what he may have been going through. I considered how my words might have come across. I considered what things may have been going on in his life that would lead to his hurtful words to me. As a mentor once told me, “What someone says, says more about them than it does about you.”
The Christmas season is a wonderful time for the proclamation of the glorious fact that God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. It is also an important time for pondering. Maybe you are like I was—facing unfounded attacks, hurtful words, or just wanting someone else to know you are the one with the right point of view. Take some time to ponder. It is in the pondering that we can listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to tell us. It is fascinating that the same idiom used for Mary’s pondering in Luke is also seen in Ps 119:11: “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.” In other words, spiritual pondering leads to holiness.
My friends, go do some pondering and then go proclaim Jesus’s love boldly. There is a time and season for both.