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  • Writer's picturePaul Coulter

It’s Christmas! Treasure and ponder it

How did Christmas come upon us so quickly? It’s a question we often find ourselves asking in this busy season. We are at risk of missing the true significance of Christmas amidst all the activity.

So, this is a simple call to learn from Mary, the mother of Jesus. In a recent Living Leadership staff meeting, my colleague Claire Reynolds asked us to consider Mary as she is portrayed in Luke 1. She shared how she felt when she first found out she was pregnant, (something I could never do, for obvious reasons!) Then she challenged us to think about the uniqueness of Mary’s experience. A teenage girl listening to an angel tell her that her son would be the Son of God. Claire cautioned us not to hurry through these verses.

We should let the wonder and the majesty of these great truths sink in.

That made me think about those famous words in Luke 2.19; they come after the shepherds have visited to worship her new-born son.

Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

I love that verse.

Two verbs.

1. Treasure. Literally, “keep with” or “guard closely”.

The things Mary saw and heard, she took deeply into her heart. I suppose that's normal for a new mother with all the unusual experiences and the discovery of maternal love. But Mary isn’t just focused on breast feeding or nappy changing—the routines of caring for a newborn—she has a lot more to treasure:

  • The angel’s announcement.

  • Conceiving a child while still a virgin.

  • The journey to Bethlehem, a place of royal and prophetic significance.

  • The visit of the shepherds and their reports of angelic visitations in the fields.

All these things she kept with her, guarding them closely.

As Mary responds to these wonders, she becomes a model for us of obedience and trust.

Over Christmas, we will hear many words. Some will be meaningless jingles we hear in the shops; others will be significant as we share memories with family and friends. Still others will be weighty with eternal meaning as we sing carols and read Scriptures.

Will any of these words find a place in our heart?

Will we treasure them—counting them as precious—ensuring we preserve them so they do not flow over and out of us like wisps of cloud? And will we let them sink deep into our hearts? Will we take time to work out their implications, savouring them with our imaginations?

This Christmas, make sure you treasure the wonder of the Incarnation. Like Mary, allow it to lead you to worship the Christ-child.

2. Ponder. Literally, “throw together” or “meet with”.

Mary did not simply file away what she saw and heard. She sought to bring these things together in a meaningful way. She drew up her memories often, reflecting on them. Her inner dialogue had a theme and his name was Jesus. Again, we might expect this of a new parent, but Mary’s experience was unique. She was not merely considering if her son would be healthy or an introvert/extrovert, she was wondering about the many prophecies he would fulfil. She was probably mulling over his future as the Son of God, conceived by a virgin. So many extraordinary unknowns, as she lived within this remarkable story.

Again, Mary is our model. The words we read and sing over Christmas are familiar to us. We could easily let them roll off our tongues without thinking. We might also get a warm feeling from their familiarity. We may even be impressed by their truths. But even if we treasure these truths, we may not ponder them. The work of faith is never simply to embrace a principle. It is to hold it before our minds, and consider its meaning in our own lives.

  • If God became human, how does that change the way I live my life?

  • If God put on a human body, what should I be doing with mine?

  • If the incarnate Word came in weakness to the marginalised, what should my priorities be?

  • If an angelic army declared peace, how can I live as a messenger of the gospel of peace?

These are not theological principles to be valued and protected. They are life-transforming truths that must inform every aspect of our lives. The gospel isn’t remote and separate from life. It is at its very heart, changing the way we live, and giving us purpose and joy as we share it with those we meet.

This festive season, make sure you “treasure up in your heart” the truth of the incarnation. But don’t just treasure it—ponder it, so that Jesus becomes the centre of your world as he was for Mary on that first Christmas Day.

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