18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:18-19 (NASB)
If you are a parent, you can identify with Mary’s pondering. Parents have reason to ponder when their children become the center of attention in ways in which they have no control. That can happen when our children are born. It happens frequently when our children marry. I have done a lot of pondering in recent weeks. My youngest daughter recently married and as I stood before the crowd of family and friends that had come to celebrate her wedding, several thoughts went through my mind. It was rehearsal night and, following dinner, several rose to speak encouraging words to bride and groom. When it became my turn, one of the realities that struck hard that night was what every parent experiences when they are giving away their son or daughter in marriage. A flood of memories went through my mind as I tried to identify one or two that might not be too embarrassing for the occasion. But the flood of memories and corresponding questions were there. It seemed like just yesterday we were bringing our daughter home from the hospital as an infant girl. How did 22 years go by so quickly? Did I do a good job? What could I have done better? Will she still love me in the years to come even though I won’t be the most important man in her life? (I’m sure moms experience this for their sons as well.) As I spoke, what came to mind in the moment was the fact that my daughter was a gift from God and it had been a privilege to be her daddy for just over two decades. Two, now seemingly, very short decades. She was a precious gift from God that I had the extreme privilege of parenting.
As I pondered the memories triggered by my daughter’s wedding, I am reminded that all of God’s gifts come by grace and not works. Isn’t that what a gift is-something given, not earned? Deanna and I did not deserve the privilege of providing a home for four precious girls. We had done nothing to earn, merit or deserve each of our daughters. As a middle-aged parent, I can now see that much clearer than when they were first born or we were in the throes of adolescence. Now that each of them are being released into the greater stream of God’s purposes-purposes that don’t always revolve around mom and dad-I can see much clearer that they were gifts from God I often took for granted.
Every year during Christmas season, we have the opportunity to celebrate the greatest gift given to us-Jesus. Mary’s child was born not just for her but for you and me. The shepherds would relay to Mary what the angel had already announced- her son would save His people from their sin. Unlike any other child given to any other parent, Jesus would become the perfect mediator between God and man. Unlike our children who sin and break our hearts, Jesus would never sin and please His Father’s heart to the very end. As we ponder the birth of Jesus this December, might we take in the beauty of God’s gift of forgiveness?
For those of us who know Christ as Savior, Advent is a reminder that God meets us where we are not where we are supposed to be. He came to us in our sin and in our disillusionment and in our brokenness. Jesus loved us when we did not love Him. You are a Christian today, not because you pulled yourself up out of your pit-but because Jesus lowered Himself into the pit of your life and did something for you that you could never do for yourself. Jesus became your sin. Jesus became your shame. Jesus became your disobedience. Jesus became everything bad and evil about you so that you could become everything good and righteous in Him. And Jesus did all of this by an act of free grace and free love. This is the only gospel that saves, pardons and redeems. When you and I believed that Jesus could transform our lives from the inside out without any work on our part, we immediately received the gift of Holy Spirit and became a member of his forever family. It’s never been about what we do-it’s always been about what Jesus did on our behalf. The more we ponder these things at Christmas, the more we will appreciate the greatest birth and the most blessed Child ever given to humanity. I invite you to ponder with me again the gift that Jesus Christ truly is to all of us.