When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
What struck me most about this passage was the two very different ways in which the shepherds and Mary reacted to the birth of Jesus. The shepherds “went with haste” to find the baby and then “made known what had been told them about this child” by the angels. I could almost picture them running to Bethlehem with boundless energy and jumping up and down with excitement upon finally reaching the holy family. Barely pausing to catch their breath, they sped off to tell everyone else they could find. On the other hand, Mary “treasured” the words of the angels and “pondered them in her heart.” Here I could imagine a young woman sitting quietly with her child, wearing a slight, somewhat shy smile that was hardly noticeable to those around her.
This made me think about how I react to good news. When I find out that something great happened for me or my family, do I tell nearly everyone I encounter? Or do I pause to enjoy it on my own first, and then tell others if I choose? I believe I do a little bit of both. Sometimes, like the shepherds, I’m so happy that I want everyone else to know what is happening right away. Sometimes though, the news is so momentous that I would prefer to ponder it in my heart first, to enjoy it for a while on my own before sharing. Maybe this is how Mary felt as she tried to understand that what had been promised to her many months ago – that her son would be great and called the Son of the Most High – was actually coming true. Maybe to Mary, news like that takes a bit more time to sink in before it’s ready for a public airing.
During this Advent season, I hope you and I will find that we experience times when we feel more like the shepherds and times when we feel more like Mary. In our more boisterous moments, we will sing the rousing Christmas hymns like “Joy to the World” or maybe even “Go, Tell it on the Mountain.” Our hearts may overflow with joy newly experienced or recalled from Christmases past. We won’t be able to stop ourselves from showing this joy to others and inviting them to experience it with us. In our quieter moments, we will ponder they mystery of God sending his son to live among us as a baby. Our hearts may overflow with joy in a simple but nearly unnoticeable way as we contemplate and meditate on God’s amazing love for us. I hope that we will embrace both kinds of moments during this Advent season, because through them we will be glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen.
“Rise Up Shepherd, and Follow”
Traditional African-American Spiritual
Performed by the Cambridge Singers directed by John Rutter