Monday, December 31, 2018
Ponder, Ponder, Ponder
August Rodin sculpted the famous figure of a man, chin in hand, sitting, and thinking. He is called simply “The Thinker.” We know not what is on his mind. He may be considering the great mysteries of the universe or he might be wondering what he is hungry for or he may be daydreaming nothing significant at all. Who knows what lies in his mind or where the focus of that mind is. He is simply the thinker. The sculptor has let it to our imagination what the man is thinking. Perhaps that is his intent. In any case, we want to think it is a noble thought and not something as stupid or foolish as thinking he should have forgone that last piece of pizza the night before.
With Mary we have no such dilemma. The Virgin Mother of our Lord is a great ponderer. But the object of her pondering is not some theoretical mystery or even some ordinary choice. It is her Son. She has been pondering the child in her womb since the voice of the archangel first stirred within her the promise of the Father. She pondered how and why and what it all meant. She pondered not the ordinary motherly thoughts of boy or girl, tall or short, handsome or homely, healthy or not. She pondered the Son of God who took flesh from her and whom she would deliver up to save us all.
When it came time for her to be purified in the Temple and for the first born male of her womb to be presented according to the Law, she had been pondering already for nine months and forty days. Still she had no answers. Then in the experience of that temple, more things to ponder and more questions. There is Simeon who breaks out in song and grabs the baby right from her hands in order to praise God who has kept His promise. There is Anna who is older than dirt and now rejoices that her life has been made worth living because she has seen her Savior. And there is that word of a sword to pierce her own heart even as she hears that her Son’s life will not be a happily ever after. Ahhhhh, Mary had much to ponder.
In the story of Christmas you find curious shepherds, singing angels, visiting Magi, preoccupied residents of Bethlehem, and an angry Herod but the most profound individual is Mary. While any ordinary mother would be fussing over nursing and clothes and who gets to see the baby so young, Mary has bigger things on her plate. She ponders the Son of God whom she has just delivered up from her womb as the Savior not only of the world but her Savior as well. She does not busy herself with the plans of a parent to design her child’s future but awaits the awesome and yet awful unfolding of God’s design on the Son of her womb born not simply to live but to die. If she tosses and turns in the night because her mind will not stop it has nothing to do with the mundane things that trouble us. She dreams of Jesus who will save His people from their sins even at the cost of His own death upon a cross.
So, what do you ponder? If you are like me, you think about ordinary stuff more than extraordinary, you fuss after routine things in life more than the exceptional, and you think about what ifs that have little if anything to do with the eternal Son of God made flesh. Your pondering and mine is as childish and foolish as it can be in comparison to the weight of the heavens and the future of the earth that Mary ponders as she looks into the face of her Son.
And that is exactly where we meet today. We meet as a people who confess too many ordinary things occupy our attention and we do not think enough on Christ and His salvation. We come as a people who admit we think more of this mortal life than the heavenly life His coming has made possible. We come as a people who should be pondering God’s Word and praying more but in weakness, weariness, and want we find it hard to read the Bible or pray more than a few sentences before sleep claims us. We are assembled not as the noble to commended but as sinners preoccupied by sinful things, who wish we were holy but who do not work very hard at being holy.
We come to learn from Mary how to ponder, how to think of the things of God, how to rejoice most of all over the mystery of the Son of God in flesh and blood for our salvation. We come to learn from Mary to see past the stereotype and to see Christ as He is and not how we would like Him to be. We come to learn from Mary to worship Him with the best of our hearts and minds and with the simple things of daily life done for God’s glory and in thanksgiving for Him who graced the womb of the Virgin that we might be saved. We come to learn what it means – Christ for us, Christ with us, and Christ in us. We come to learn what it means to the new people baptismal water created and not the old people who think being bad is where its at. We come to learn that God has not come to excuse us or condemn us but to save us . . . and how we might live as the saved, whom God has declared just.
However deeply your heart has been pierced, however frustrated or bitter you are at what your lives have been or have not been, however great the challenges that lay before you, however painful the prospect of living even one more day, Jesus has come for you. Jesus has come for you. Jesus has come for you. This sad and pitiful life is not all there is but the barest prelude to what the Lord has prepared for those who love Him. Ponder not upon the things that make you angry or the people who tick you off or the things of life that are not as they could or should be. Do not dwell upon the minutiae of a cheap life. Instead, ponder what it means for God to value you enough to shed the blood of His Son to save you. Instead ponder what it means to be called the child of God you are by baptism and faith. Instead ponder what it means that Christ died so you might live and bore your sins on the cross so that your conscience might be clear.
And if that is not enough, ponder the joy of Him who endured the cross and scorned its shame that You might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever more. If that is not enough, ponder the love that delivered up the Son of glory to the womb of the Virgin so that you might be set free from sin and its death. If that is not enough, ponder why God would pay such a high cost for you, with your tired old sins and your half-hearted efforts to be righteous. If that is not enough, ponder the strength the Lord has made perfect in your weakness, the bruised reed He has not broken and the dimly burning wick He has not snuffed away. If that is not enough, ponder the life that waits for you in death, hidden in darkness the everlasting life and the grand reunion with those who have gone before. If that is not enough, then ponder that God has spoken to you the voice that absolves you of all your sins and has fed you the flesh of His Son and His blood for the forgiveness of all your sins and as pledge and promise of the eternal banquet feast to come. If that is not enough, ponder this. Jesus is yours and you are His.
Ponder this for a while and you just might discover the joy that sustained the Mother of our Lord who knew the son in her womb was not hers to own but the Savior who would deliver the world. Ponder this and you must might find the strength of a mother who watched her son die for all on the cross and who waited for Easter to finish the story with her own hope of redemption and reunion. Ponder this and you must might find the courage to carry on. . . one more hour. . . one more day. . . as she carried on, outliving her husband and her Son. Ponder this for a while and your cold heart may warm and your complaint may fade to gratitude and the tears of your sorrow become tears of everlasting joy. Amen.