Readers Write: Ponder
December 11, 2019
We asked readers to submit brief reflections on words associated with Advent. Below are two responses on the word “ponder.”
by the Rev. Dr. Sharon Fleshman
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
— Luke 2:19 (NIV)
I associate pondering with a sense of calm, but the Greek word for ponder in this text literally translates “to throw together.” Reflecting on my life and what is going on in the world can feel like throwing together good and bad, ups and downs, delight and despair. For me, the temptation is to wander into “what ifs” from the past or the future. I wonder: “What if this had happened for me? What if this doesn’t work out for me?”
All the while, disappointment and dread begin to take up too much space in my thoughts. Surely there is a place for pondering, but how do I keep from crossing into overthinking, which fuels an obsession with understanding, excuse for inaction, or fear of what’s ahead?
Before Mary pondered the events that unfolded following the birth of her son, she “treasured up” her memories and observations. In response, I ask myself, “What do you allow in the treasure box of your mind?”
Advent reminds me of the mystery of the incarnation and the invitation to be fully present to the presence of Christ. Even while feeling perplexed about some things, I take comfort knowing that in the good and bad, the ups and downs, the delight and despair, Jesus always shows up.
The Rev. Dr. Sharon Fleshman serves as associate pastor of Christian Education at The Baptist Worship Center, Philadelphia, Pa., and the personal development coordinator for American Baptist Women’s Ministries-Philadelphia Baptist Association.
by Sharon Merz
The bitter wind howling outside taunted me as I read the email: “We always need more people for the live nativity.” I had felt a little nudge the first time I saw the announcement in the church bulletin but had done nothing. Except wait. But, each week, the announcement stayed in the bulletin. Then a few days before the event, that little nudge still there, I emailed the organizer. The drive-through lighting display at the city park was a popular holiday activity, and it was beginning to look like I was going to be a part of it for the first time.
From the nudge I reasoned it might just be an Abraham thing. God knows how I don’t thaw out from November until May, so surely God wouldn’t want me to be in a live (cold) nativity. Maybe God just wanted to know I was willing to do it, then I wouldn’t have to. God called my bluff with that email.
God did, however, answer my prayers to warm it up slightly for the night of the nativity. With four layers of clothes, hand and foot warmers, a well-built stable and a heater, the only thing that got cold were my toes. It was an odd manger scene, especially when “Joseph” decided we needed music, pulled out his iPhone, began playing Christmas songs and laid the phone in the manger with the baby Jesus.
As I stood perched on a bale of hay in my angel costume, I observed the traffic rolling through our corner of the park display. I noticed the varying responses to the live nativity. Some people drove by as fast as they could, not even casting a glance toward the stable. Others drove by slowly, offering an obligatory acknowledgement. Some even took pictures. But some just stopped, gazing at the scene for several moments.
How well that experience reflects the world’s reaction to Christ today. Many ignore signs and words about Christ. Some will slow down just long enough for an acknowledgement. But there are those who do stop and dwell in Christ’s presence.
Luke 2:19 records Mary’s reaction after the shepherds left the manger: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Obviously, Mary was a key player in the first Christmas, but she also took the time—even as a new mother—to dwell on the glory of Christ.
This Advent and Christmas, take time to stop and pause at the manger. Experience the wonder and majesty of God in the flesh and ponder in your heart the glory of Christ.
Sharon Merz works in the printing industry. She and her husband, David, are members of Karl Road Baptist Church, Columbus, Ohio, an American Baptist Churches of Ohio congregation.