Ponder: After Good News of Great Joy & a Savior is Born

Mary ponders as she holds baby Jesus

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Do you ever ponder? I mean, do you take time to think about and reflect on a thing, what Miriam-Webster defines as, “to weigh in the mind”?

Pondering isn’t the same as drifting. It’s not the same as what occupies your mind those 90 seconds that come around every other fifth month when you’re alone for the night and your phone is off. That’s not pondering. Pondering means prolonged, intentional thinking over. It may start as a wisp, but when it comes, you hold it in a mind and weigh it a while.

Pondering is effortful for some of us. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as, say, to my husband. He is content to drive for hours with no music, no screens, no talk- content with just his thoughts. Just pondering.

Which is precisely what Mary did after the shepherds returned to their sheep that first Christmas night. Mary pondered.

What Mary Pondered

What did Mary ponder?

All these things. Yes, you appalled English teachers, Mary pondered things. The Greek cuts it a tad tighter with the word rhēma, which refers to a thing spoken. And that “thing” is probably the message announced to the shepherds, recorded in Luke 2:10-11,

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

So the shepherds probably told those things to Mary who treasured them up as precious things. Maybe Mary sang again. But certainly she pondered.

Pondering Ponder

Taking cues from the Blessed Mother, I’ve been pondering pondering lately. In Greek, it’s symballō. It means to throw together or to bring together in one’s mind, to confer with one’s self.

It is formed from sum- with, ballo- to put into. Symballō is used five other time in the New Testament. It’s used in Luke 14:31, when Jesus asks, What king, going out to meet another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate? It’s what the Jewish leaders did after they forced Peter and John to leave the council in Acts 4:15, they conferred with one another. And it’s what happened in Acts 20:14, when Paul met the ship at Assos, and went aboard.

We don’t ponder enough these days. We don’t let thoughts meet up and confer with them. Maybe because we’re out of practice; to reflect and meditate and think long on the same thing is hard work. So distractedly we drift and rush. Screens train our brains this way.

So with the culture, we wade in the shallows.

If Mary, How Much More I?

But we’re not off the hook. If anyone could have been exempted from taking time to ponder the reality of her Savior Son, it would have been Mary. She nursed him, held him, bathed him. And pondered him.

No one can absolve himself from the duty of spiritual thought... Shall we, with our restless, distracted lives, with our feeble and imperfect grasp on Truth, be content to repeat with indolent assent a traditional confession? Can we suppose that the highest knowledge alone… is to be gained without effort, without preparation, without discipline? Is it credible that the law of our nature, which adds capacity to experience and joy to quest, is suddenly suspended when we reach the loftiest field of man’s activity?

Bishop Westcott, “The Incarnation a Subject for Devout Study

Westcott’s words challenge, maybe even incriminate us. Because we know that the more we learn about an artist, the more we savor the art and that the more we read a good writer, the more we enjoy his work,

If in all other realms this is true, then why- when it comes to knowing Jesus- do we think that if we’ve sung a few carols and prayed a few prayers, “we’re good”?

Why would we think that knowing him and enjoying him a little is enough?

Be Not as the Swallow: Ponder

C.H. Spurgeon calls us to the “holy work” of pondering.

Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Turn over and over by meditation what you read. Do not…stop at the surface; dive into the depths! Be not as the swallow, which touches the brook with her wing, but as the fish, which penetrates the lowest wave. Drink deep draughts of love; do not sip and go away, but dwell at the well…

Ponder him. Think on him. Let your intellect be exercised. Come to think of it, that happens to be what Christ himself called “the first and greatest commandment“: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

And the command is not without promise. Because the more you do, the more you’ll love him and the more you’ll know his love. Spurgeon again: Certain persons are best esteemed at a distance, but not the Savior; when you shall have known Him to the very fullest, then shall you love Him with the love which passes knowledge…

We can’t love, trust, or adore someone we hardly know. If we’re content to ponder the Lord Jesus for a few minutes on Christmas Eve by candlelight we won’t know his love, or love him, well. For that we must ponder.

Ponder like Mary pondered.

Ponder the “Complex Beauty” of Christ

I don’t ponder enough. I’m so often running and doing. But I can take more time in 2020 to keep Christ in mind, to ponder Jesus, strong and kind.

I may ponder the complex beauty that John Piper describes as “coming together in one person of the perfect balance of extremely diverse qualities.” It’s like what we see in a man with bulging biceps cradling a baby in his hands and gentle woman standing immovable for the cause of truth.

That’s our Lord Jesus. He is tough and tender, lion and lamb, mighty and meek. He held the children in his arms and put his fingers into the deaf man’s ears and sat to chat with the woman who’d had five husbands and lived with another who wasn’t. Jesus, who spoke to the raging sea and it was still and wept before he raised his friend Lazarus to life. The Savior, who spoke to his disciples, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe and to us, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

I’ve pondered this- this beautiful, complex Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

On Us To Know Him More

We sing about the beautiful name of Jesus, but to see more of his beauty, we must know him more. In her humility and trust, Mary somehow got that.

[She] grasped what much more sophisticated people have often failed to understand: that Jesus is to be treasured and pondered… that there is something so deep and wonderful about the person of Jesus that a lifetime of pondering will not suffice. We can both know him deeply and marvel that we cannot comprehend him totally.

Christopher Ash, “Repeat the Sounding Joy,” p. 109

But it’s on us to ponder these things. Because to us also a Child was born, to us also a Son was given.

And to us also comes the news: a Savior has been born and he is Christ the Lord.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee!
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Joachim Neander, 1680

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Luke 2:14

Grind the Wheat

“I will meditate on Thy precepts.” —Psalm 119:15

Revival in 2014? The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (Psalm 19:7).  

Blessing in 2014? Be assured: to the one who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2).  Vigor and vim, and discernment, too?

You know it: The Word of the Lord is living and active, sharper than a double edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

These quotes below infuse fresh courage, feisty zeal, joyful resolve in my soul.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.  I want crystal clear vision to check sin that clings, that entangles as I follow hard after Him.

Fresh courage take, acedia shake with these wise words:

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .” 
– Charlies H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

“For too many of us, the hustle and bustle of electronic activity is a sad expression of a deeper acedia. We feel busy, but not with a hobby or recreation or play.  We are busy with busyness.   Rather than figure out what to do with our spare minutes and hours, we are content to swim in the shallows and pass our time with passing the time.  How many of us, growing too accustomed to the acedia of our age, feel this strange mix of busyness and lifelessness?  We are always engaged with our thumbs, but rarely engaged with our thought.  We keep downloading information, but rarely get down into the depths of our hearts.  That’s acedia– purposelessness disguised as constant commotion.” 
– Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy

“More than just a novel about “censorship”-as the cover usually claims- Fahrenheit 451 is a picture of how private citizens’ lack of will to reflect on anything- which can be understood as a lack of intellectual diligence-leads to censorship.  And not just censorship of reading material, but a soul-crippling censorship of thought.  Monolithic government-control has been achieved through the means of a thoroughly entertained populace.  It’s a world where TV and sports and bite-sized snippets of inconsequential news have become the center of all culture and society.  And reflection, thought, has become a pesky, bothersome thing that just gets in the way of all that.  Reflections causes only sorrow, those in charge say.  And so, for the good of society, books-which induce reflection far more than most things- are illegal.”
-Garret Johnson, “The Virtue of Dystopian Fiction,” The City, Fall 2013

“The true notion of holy evangelical truths will not live, at least not flourish, where they are divided from a holy conversation….And herein alone can we come unto the assurance, that what we know and learn is indeed the truth.  So our Saviour tells us, that ‘of any man do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God’ (John 7:17)…And hereby will they be led continually into farther degrees of knowledge.  For the mind of man is capable of receiving continual supplies in the increase of light and knowledge whilst it is in this world, if so be they are improved unto their proper end in obedience unto God.  But without this, the mind will be quickly stuffed with notions, so that no streams can descend into it from the fountain of truth.” 
-John Owen, Works IV

“Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”
-R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture

I know a 90 year old man named Alan.  This saint follows hard-grinds the wheat– still studying to show himself approved.  Disciplined, he loves the Lord with his heart, soul, and mind.

Asked how Alan spends his time these days, his granddaughter, related, “He doesn’t go out to church as much.  But he reads the Bible all the time.  And he fasts on Tuesdays.  And prays for missionaries.”

God give me this one magnificent obsession.

Give me one pure and holy passion

Give me one magnificent obsession

Give me one glorious ambition for my life

To know and follow hard after you

To grow as your disciple in your truth

This world is empty, pale, and poor

Compared to knowing you, my Lord

Lead me on and I will run after you

-Mark Altrogge