THE DAY AFTER: Three Ways to Internalize Christmas
Christmas 2021 is in the books. All the hype is over, and as much as we want to embrace the spirit of the season, many educators are already thinking about 2022 and their return to school. Before you allow yourself to delve back into a work mindset, I want to encourage you to take some time to internalize Christmas. In doing so, our hearts will be strengthened and our minds will be ready to take on a new year!
I’m taking my inspiration from Mary. We all know the story. Gabriel appears unannounced to let Mary know she is going to birth the Son of God. I’m sure from this moment on Mary’s life was a whirlwind of emotions and events, culminating with giving birth in a most unlikely place and laying her newborn in a trough made for animals. As if this wasn’t enough, strange shepherds show up! The Bible says they “…came with haste.” Can you imagine how excited they were to confirm the angel’s announcement? The combination of the angelic announcement and the sign of a child in a feeding trough inspired the shepherds to tell as many as they could of what they heard and experienced. Something significant had just happened (Luke 2)! Lives would be changed forever.
This was an event no one would ever forget; however, I find Luke’s reverence to Mary’s response intriguing. In this moment of great celebration and significance, Mary seems to turn inward, internalizing this gift, this miracle of Christmas.
But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Luke doesn’t provide us much detail here, but we are given a window to peer into Mary’s heart and mind. Mary models for us what we can do to harness the memory and meaning of Christmas. Consider these three unique ways to internalize Christmas.
· How can we internalize Christmas? WONDER!
As I pictured this scene in my mind, I envisioned an exhausted mother trying to take it all in as she sat in wonder of all that had taken place. To wonder means to treasure, to keep, to remember. Mary was holding on to all that had transpired and all that was said respecting her child. She no doubt recalled her conversation with the angel, what had happened to Elizabeth, and the events involving the shepherds. All of these incidents were extraordinary circumstances that had surrounded the birth of her son. Mary guarded these memories even though she didn’t fully understand everything that was transpiring.
How often do we take a moment and sit in a place of wonder? In the aftermath of Christmas, I want to challenge you to remember, treasure, and hold dear the ways God has made himself known in your life. It might be through something simple like a beautiful sunrise, or it may be something miraculous like a cure for an illness. It might be through heartache or loss. It might even be through a Scripture passage (I Peter 2:24). Regardless, we need to take time in the midst of our busy lives to consider who He is and what He has done in our lives.
Granted, it often takes time to make sense of how God is currently working in our situation. Nevertheless, we can still meditate on His works and words (like Mary) even when we don’t fully comprehend all that is happening. Mary’s faith allowed her to appreciate, not question, how God was orchestrating each and every detail of her life.
· How can we internalize Christmas? PONDER!
True wonder will often lead to pondering. We know Mary didn’t just wonder. She deliberately considered her thoughts. The original meaning of the word “ponder” is weighed. The Greek implies Mary carefully weighed each thought in her mind, giving to each circumstance its just importance and anxiously seeking what it might indicate for the future.
Notice the Bible says, “…in her heart.” This was not just an intellectual exercise. This ongoing pondering tapped into the very center of her being. To ponder in our heart involves a convergence of thought, passion, desire, and purpose with the sovereignty of an Almighty God. I know I am inferring this from the Scripture text, but I don’t see Mary as being anxious. I picture her as being calm. Pondering from a place of trust reminds me of peaceful contemplation. We don’t have to worry or over-analyze. We can be fully engaged, aware, and mindful of God’s activity in our daily lives no matter how crazy it is! We can trust Him fully (Proverbs 3:5-6).
· How can we internalize Christmas? PREPARE
Mary had no idea what was to come. Like every mother, I am sure she speculated about the future. What would Jesus look like? What would be his disposition? How would God use him? Would He be accepted by others? Given her situation, I’m not sure how she kept her mind from running wild! Yet, Mary is consistently represented in Scripture as a woman of strong faith. We know from her song of praise (The Magnificat) in Luke 1:46-55, she knew and studied God’s Word. The Scriptures on her heart were reflected in her words; they undoubtedly influenced her thinking and prepared her for an unimaginable future.
No one knows what lies ahead. The past couple of years have taught us to expect the unexpected. While we can never be fully prepared, we can use every situation as a preparation of sorts—as an opportunity to sit in wonder and ponder the goodness and faithfulness of God (Psalm 107:1, Psalm 34:8).
While the formal celebration of Christmas has past, let’s hold onto as much as we can! Before jumping back into a busy school year, take time to wonder, ponder, and prepare! Bring on 2022!