8th December 2023

Which is your favourite Christmas Bible reading? As a child, I liked the shepherds best. The first one I read in a carol service was the Luke account of the birth of Christ from the Authorised Version (Luke 2. 1–7). I was just seven. It was for school and my mother had to go through it several times with me.

I was so disappointed. It only gets to the baby in the last verse!

It was hard when you are only seven. Quirinius? Who he? Caesar Augustus ? House and lineage? Great with child? So we went on to look at the shepherds and angels too. I wanted to know what ‘pondered’ meant. This bit is often missed out. ‘Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.’

Luke is the only one who records these stories and also the stories of Simeon and Anna at the temple. Who was his witness? An aged Mary or someone she had talked to, perhaps telling her story repeatedly? I have never heard a sermon which mentions Mary’s attempt to reflect on what it all meant.

We look at a newborn child and wonder what the future holds for them. We look at little hands and feet, so many bones and all complete ready to grow. What will their world hold for them? How much more for Mary with Gabriel’s promises!

The birth was only the beginning for Mary. Did she get more and more puzzled as time went on? How did it fit with Gabriel’s promise to her? She lived through each phase of Jesus’ life wondering what next. And the end must have been heartbreaking.

Margaret Clements