Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Pondering... Mary and Joseph style


The Big Idea: In the Christmas story both Mary and Joseph model reflection. Take time to reflect during Advent.

Time to Think.

Most years Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year (this year of COVID may be an exception). We do special baking, shop for gifts, attend parties and special programs. Everything takes longer getting stuck in traffic with everyone else prepping for the holidays. Basically at Christmas, we do, do, do and find little time to ponder.

Thinking is important. Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest men in the world is said to spend 80% of his time thinking and reading. Those who want to be a successful leader, businessman or to be well rounded and influential are advised to carve time in their schedule to just think. 

The Bible certainly advocates thinking.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  Joshua 1:8 NLT

“Be still, and know that I am God!  Psalm 46:10a NLT

I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  Psalm 119:15 NLT

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2 NLT

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Philippians 4:8 NLT

I find it intriguing that the Nativity Bible passages tell us about both Mary and Joseph's think time. Clearly at this busy time of year, it is useful to observe Jesus' parents as they took time to think during this monumental life event. The birth of the Savior.



We do not know much about Joseph, Mary's spouse. Typically in ancient Israel, the men were older and more established when they took a young wife. There was a long period of engagement, but it was a very serious commitment that demanded a divorce to break the deal. When Mary was found to be pregnant, she and Joseph had already become formally engaged. Since Joseph knew he was not the father of the child, this really set his mind reeling. Here is what the Scriptural text says.

Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Matthew 1:19-20 NLT

This text tells us Joseph was a righteous man. He did not want to disgrace Mary publically. He must have been a good man with a kind heart, but this was a serious situation. If this was not his child, whose was it? Would it be obvious it wasn't his if they stayed together? Did someone else want Mary for a wife? Was she molested? Just imagine all the thoughts swirling around his head.

He wanted to do right by Mary, so he "considered" (NLT) how to deal with this. This word "considered" in the original language means to reflect and ponder, but it is a very strong emotional word. Let's take a peak at how a couple of Bible versions choose to describe this. The bulk of them use the word  "considered" (ESV, NLT, NIV).  Some use "thought or thinking" (KJV, NASB).

If you want to check how different translations present a verse (it is after all a translation from the original language of the New Testament, ancient Greek), go to Bible Gateway and only enter 1 verse. You will find a link to see it in numerous translations.

The Passion translation says, "While he was still debating with himself."

The Living Bible says "As he lay in bed considering this."

We all know what it is like to have night thoughts. The weight of the world goes to bed with us. I know this happens to me time to time and it is likely you have done this too.  In fact right now we have lots of issues to contemplate, that weigh us down in the night, wondering what life will be like tomorrow morning for a financial matter, or a health matter, or some other grave concern.

It is good to have an example such as Joseph, a righteous man. He was a man who wanted to do what was right, a man who wanted to be kind in the midst of what seems a betrayal. And God spoke to him in a dream through an angel. Today we have the wonderful Word of God to speak God's very intentions to us. Slow down and think. Ponder. Reflect. And see what insights His Word reveals to you.



We are never given Mary's age when the angel first comes to her. Given tradition in Israel at that time, scholars put her age as likely 14-15 years old. When I worked as a nurse in West Africa, I was the health care worker for quite a few newlyweds whose wife was between the age of 14-15.  Yes it is still like that in some parts of the world. These young girls at our Bible Institute joined their husband studying for ministry. Many had left a village of family and familiar community to join ministry preparation in a new place without the usual support structures of an ancestral village. These women had a sharp learning curve to care for their own household. Many became pregnant in their first year of  marriage. They were so young with much to learn.

Mary remarkably took on this pregnancy at her young age. It was all a learning experience of life. She travelled with her new husband to Bethlehem during her final trimester. Here's a Google map of Israel with the traffic routes of today. Nazareth to Bethlehem is almost 100 miles apart. They would have travelled on foot and perhaps with a donkey. Google says the modern route is a 33 hour walk, not counting a stop for meals and other needs.

Traffic is busy in our world during the holidays. Bethlehem was similar as the census caused new travel bottlenecks. Imagine Joseph and Mary's situation, arriving late to Bethlehem with no place to stay, everything unknown. They were offered an animal shelter for lodging. No woman of the family was with Mary to help with the birth. What must have been going through Mary's mind at that time was probably the cold, finding a sheltered place, the unknown of how well the birthing process would go, food and care for the baby and a myriad of other practical things. Perhaps the birth went rapidly and smoothly. We do not know but I am more inclined to think our Savior came into the world in pain, just as He died before He resurrected. He was not sent from heaven to earth to have a kingly life of ease and comfort. He was born to die. First time births are often hard and long. And so our young and brave teenage Mary gave birth in the night among the animals.

Then, a group of motley shepherds smelling of sheep and dirt and sweat come rushing through the entrance of their shelter. Their story is fantastic, describing the angel choir and God's message of "good news of great joy which shall be for all people" (Luke 2:10). Their lives are clearly changed. They will never be the same again. They pour out of the shelter telling everyone they see about this wondrous event.

If you enjoy watching the new series, The Chosen, enjoy seeing the shepherds visit Mary and Joseph on that night here on YouTube (~25 minutes).

Our verses of contemplation for Mary follow the Shepherd's visit:

All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. Luke 2: 18-19 NLT

The phrase in the New Living Translation, "thought about them often," is one word in the Greek that is often translated as "pondered".  The origin of the word implies weights used on a scale. It is the balancing of the weights. Used in this case Mary weighs the various happenings in her mind. She goes over it again and again. The pieces of the puzzle start coming together in amazement at what God is doing.


Both Mary and Joseph had much to think about in those early days of Jesus' life. There were angels, shepherds with their lambs, Uncle Zachariah, Old man Simeon and Anna… It certainly deserved much contemplation.

This Christmas, find the time to think. Take time to weigh the truths of Jesus the Messiah, Emmanuel God-with-us, Savior and Coming King.  Consider your life, your family, your dreams and your future. Live life intentionally.  Be prone to ponder.

Up Next: The Eyes of my Heart

Previous Post: Spying on Christmas



Do I take time reading the Bible during this season? Do I take time at Christmas to slow down and reflect on the Christ? Why or why not? 

If I don't already, how can I incorporate thinking regularly about spiritual things and life issues? 

Do I have a plan to to make time to reflect on God, life and family before the New Year begins?


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