She Pondered the Words in Her Heart—Luke 2: 1-20
If you love a bargain, scripture is an amazing two for one deal. When we read or hear
scripture, we are always reading at least two stories; the actual words on the page and
the story behind the words that consider the motivations and historical situation of the
writer. Tonight, I want to focus solely on the story that comes from the words on the
page, for there is much beauty, grace, and simplicity in Luke’s understated prose.
Did you catch that little phrase at the end of the scripture, the one after the shepherds
leave, the one about Mary’s reaction to the events surrounding the birth of her child;
“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It’s a phrase full of
mystery. What was going on inside Mary? Why did Luke phrase Mary’s reaction in this
What words do you treasure and ponder in your heart? The first time your spouse told
you they loved you, the dying words of a grandparent, that report card where the
teacher noted your child’s kindness or intelligence, or think of famous speeches, Dr.
Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”. We treasure and ponder words in our
hearts that fulfill our hopes and our aspirations, which speak to our deepest needs as
human beings. We hope for love, connection, and acceptance, we hope for wisdom, we
hope that our children will be well adjusted; we yearn for leaders with integrity and a
vision that pulls us together. So, when we hear words that fulfill our hopes, that speak
to our deepest needs and longings we hang onto them, we treasure them, we ponder
them in our hearts.
Perhaps that’s why Luke wrote that phrase for Mary, Luke is such a good storyteller.
Mary heard the words of the shepherds, and she knew that God had come through for
her and her people. In my imagination Mary’s mind goes back to that first visit from the
angel Gabriel “Don’t be afraid Mary, God has great plans for you”, and she thought
about the fear of being single and pregnant, about the possibility of Joseph abandoning
her, then the arduous journey to Bethlehem and then delivering a child in such rough
conditions and now this, these words from the shepherds. They were like gold; they
were the fulfillment of not just her hopes but of anything beyond her hopes: God
transcends fear, persecution, grief, pain, and misery; the darkness could not put out the
light. In fact, the darkness had been a womb, nurturing new life, new possibilities.
Nothing could separate humanity from the love of God. Perhaps that’s why Mary
treasured and pondered the words of the shepherds in her heart.
For life’s deepest mysteries—love, beauty, joy, creativity, God—the heart is the place of
pondering. Luke knew that the heart has a logic that the mind needs. The heart
doesn’t concern itself with things like the factual accuracy of the existence of angels or
the astronomical probability of a star in the eastern sky. The heart knows there’s a
deeper truth to this story.
To find the truth of Luke’s words we must invite them into our hearts and ponder them
there. The heart has a logic all its own. The heart knows that truth lies in wholeness, the
state of oneness at the heart of creation, where we come to know everyone, and
everything as connected and inseparable from its maker. We need stories that confound
our minds and take us to our hearts.1
Too much that makes sense in the mind winds up revealing a lie. It makes sense that we
should strive for an ever more productive economy, but that leads us to live in the lie
that the earth’s resources are infinite, and that the environment can take whatever we do
to it. It made sense many years ago that the First Nation’s should abandon their cultures
so they could better fit into white society, but that lead to the lie that Indigenous people
were inferior and that lie perpetrated all kinds of abuses. It makes sense to protect our
freedom but in a pandemic that leads to the lie that our actions or lack of actions don’t
impact others greatly. I knew a family that put great stock in logic, of course each
member had their own opinion on what was logical. Family gatherings always ended up
in arguments, hurt feelings and resentment. Their approach to family life led to the lie
that being right was more important than being loving. It was a lie that kept them apart.
I knew a couple who lived their lives together as if it were a book of accounts. If she
bought something for herself, he would have too as well. If he did the cleaning than she
would have to make supper regardless of how hard her day had been. It was a tit for tat
kind of relationship that ensured fairness, it was rational. But it led to the lie that a
marriage relationship is merely a kind of contract. It was a lie that kept them from
experiencing the fullness of marriage, the mystery of two becoming one.
Luke’s story makes no sense to the mind, but in our hearts, it reveals a great truth. In
ancient times people looked for a messiah, a powerful ruler, a mighty king, to establish
justice and peace in a world full of violence and poverty. People still do. But each
Christmas we’re reminded that the Messiah who came then, and who comes today in
our hearts, is not powerful or wealthy—not from an earthly kingdom or principality. It’s
a baby. A Holy Child born to a poor young woman living under occupation. A Messiah
of the margins. An unexpected One, dependent, vulnerable even to the wrath of an
When we ponder this story in our hearts we come to a great truth of our faith, a
paradox—In fragility lies the power to turn the world upside down. It’s not that there
isn’t a role for those with wealth, the so called successful, the hyper-educated. But the
Christian faith calls us to form community around care for the vulnerable and the fragile.
This way of living, the way of the heart, keeps us from idolatry. Because when we don’t
put the vulnerable at the centre, we wind up worshipping false gods—wealth, success,
fame, power. But, when we do form community around the vulnerable and the fragile,
when we live from the heart it frees us from distraction, it connects us to the core of
1Aiden Enns, “Something Irrational Is About to be Born, Geez, December 7, 2014,
what it means to be human—relationships, connection, contributing, giving, sharing,
This is the power of the story. The kind of power that empowers, that brings hope, that
urges transformation—that changes everything. At Christmas we celebrate that our God
is revealed to us in vulnerability and love, fragility and possibility.3 This is the truth of
this story when we ponder it in our hearts, These words are like gold, they are the
fulfillment of our hopes, they speak to our deepest needs as individuals, as societies and
nations, as those who share this planet with all creation. Ponder these words in your
heart, may they propel us into life with hope, peace, joy, and love. Merry Christmas.
Rev. Joe Gaspar