So [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:16–19, NRSV).
This is the fifth and final installment of our Women in Waiting series which has featured the women named in Jesus genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. In today’s imagined interview, Jesus’ mother, Mary, reflects on the events surrounding the first Christmas.
Carol: I have so many questions, Mary. It’s hard to know where to start.
Mary: That’s pretty much how I felt about that part of my life, too.
C: Is that what Luke meant when he said that you “treasured all these words and pondered them in [your] heart”?
M: Yes, I think so. It was a balance, you see. Every bit of good news gave rise to so many questions. I had a lot to ponder in those days.
C: When I was little I always thought it said that you “pounded” them in your heart.
M: Well, that’s sort of how it felt sometimes! From the moment the angel Gabriel showed up with his big announcement, it was almost too much to process. Do you know how your mind can sort of sub-divide? Part of me was thinking, “Wow, I’m going to be the mother of the Messiah!” And the other part was thinking, “But wait, I’m a virgin. Does he not know how this works?”
C: I noticed that the first thing you did after getting the news from Gabriel was to go visit Elizabeth. Was that visit an attempt to get your head around what had happened?
M: Absolutely. First of all, it confirmed Gabriel’s story. (Not that you should really have to confirm an angel’s story, but seriously, it was a lot to take in.) Second, Elizabeth was the one person I could talk to who “got it.” We spent a lot of time talking about what it meant—not just for us personally, but for the whole of creation.
C: You must have done a lot of “pondering” when you and Joseph couldn’t find a hotel room.
M: That’s a polite way to put it. I have to admit, I prayed some very candid prayers that night.
C: Say more about that.
M: Well, I mean really. Gabriel could talk all he wanted to about how “highly favored” I was, but when I had to give birth in a stable, I didn’t feel particularly favored. Thank goodness for Joseph!
C: Yes, he was what our British friends would call a “brick.”
M: No question about that. He was always there for me. I have to admit, though, when I was lying there on a blanket spread over the hay panting and pushing, I had some moments when I wondered whether God had abandoned me. This was hardly the entrance anyone had imagined for the Messiah. For that matter, it wasn’t what I had imagined for my introduction to motherhood either.
C: How did your feelings change when the shepherds showed up?
M: Well, my first thought was, “For pity’s sake, don’t wake the baby!” But when they told us what the angels had said, it confirmed that I wasn’t crazy. Does that sound heretical?
C: Not at all; it sounds human.
M: It’s just that going into labor on the road and then the whole “no room at the inn” thing had made me start to think I’d dreamed it all. When the shepherds showed up I began to believe again.
C: Did your faith ever waver after that?
M: Are you kidding? It wavered every day—especially at the foot of the cross! (I’ll be pondering that in my heart for all eternity.) But I guess I’ve learned not to fear the questions. There’s a sense in which questions are holy ground. Sometimes, they are where God meets us. Maybe that’s why they call him “Emmanuel”—God with us.
C: Thanks, Mary. You’ve given us a lot to ponder.
Ponder: How does Mary’s story empower you? Convict you?
Pray: Meet us in the midst of our questions this Christmas, Emmanuel.