As I think back on that night at Epcot, I don’t know if it was the clear starry night, the massive choir, the 50-piece orchestra, the narrator reading from the Scriptures, or the fact that I was sitting with my family, but these were my thoughts. I came home, and began to scribble and type as I attempted to look at the birth of Jesus with fresh eyes. You know, it’s interesting that so much time is dedicated to the shepherds in Luke 2 (13 verses!). But just before they worshipfully take their exit from the story we read:
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
What catches my attention is that the shepherds went around worshipping publicly and really being evangelists. And on the other hand, Mary is presented to us in a much different tone concerning the birth of her son and the Savior of the world. Mary, in contrast to the shepherds, seems to still be trying to process and understand all that she has seen, heard, and experienced. By the way, this does not detract in any way from her faithfulness! Imagine if you were a teenager, had been visited by an angel, caused to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit, had to tell your fiancé who was also visited by an angel, only to then give birth in a cave, and have strangers come by to see your baby because an angel told them to! I would say that Mary had quite a bit to ponder! Furthermore, I think the portraits of the shepherds and Mary paint for us one picture of how we should approach Christmas.
Christmas is a time for praising and pondering,
for rejoicing over the answer to our greatest need while trying to understand that answer more fully,
it is a time to celebrate the miraculous and process the miracle,
for embodying ‘Joy to the World’ and embracing ‘Silent Night,’
it’s a time to lift our glasses and to bend our knees,
a time to go caroling and sing to strangers, but also a time to sit at home in front of the fire and appreciate that ‘Jesus was born to you.'
In the end, Mary and the shepherds were both exhaustively obedient as presented to us in Luke 2. And I think their story suggests to us all these generations later, that the Christmas spirit is understood and demonstrated when our lives are full of praise and pondering. So I hope you will carve out some time, in the midst of shopping and finals and end of the year deadlines, to pause in front of a nativity, to read the birth account, and then to celebrate because your response is that of the shepherds, “Let us go over…and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”