19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:19-20)
Happy Christmas! These verses conclude the account of the beginnings of Jesus’ life and so are an appropriate place to land on Christmas Day. Luke offers two final and enlightening perspectives on these opening moments in Jesus’ life: Mary’s (v.19) and the shepherds’ (v.20).
Firstly, Mary reacts to all that has happened. In Matthew, Mary is named but she is not the protagonist; instead, Joseph is given this role and the angel directs him (Matthew 1:20-23; 2:13; 2:19-20). Not so here: Luke maintains his focus on Mary, considering her perspective. Mary is portrayed as reflective and thoughtful. We might imagine these thoughts constituting the start of Mary’s mental scrapbook of her son’s life: she no doubt remains amazed and joyful at being the mother of the Messiah. Although Luke’s account focuses on the good news of Jesus’ birth, the road had been difficult for Mary. Even without the Magi’s gifts she might well have sensed or learned that Jesus’ life would involve joy and suffering – Simeon later confirms this (Luke 2:34-5). On Christmas Day, amid the joy, there is a time to stop and reflect on the suffering around us and in the world.
While Mary reflects, the shepherds celebrate and celebrate again! This is also highly appropriate on Christmas Day. The shepherds return with their hearts full, directing their praise and worship towards the God who told them exactly what would happen. They are amazed, overjoyed, and celebrate accordingly in view of a God who keeps his promises.
On Christmas Day there is room for reflection and celebration. For many of us, Christmas Day will be a day of celebration like it was for the shepherds; for others of us, it will be one of celebration but not without difficulty or sadness; for still others, it will be a very difficult day. Whether we feel raw or joyful, reflective, celebratory, or somewhere in between, my prayer is that we would all experience something of God’s presence on this special day when we celebrate the beginning of the life of Jesus, our Immanuel – God with us.
Although we still await Jesus’ return, the Advent season of waiting is over for this year… wishing you a wonderful Christmas!