“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them to heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go now even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
On July 10, 1741, Charles Jennens sent a letter to his friend, Edward Holdsworth, telling him the reason for mailing a packet of Scripture passages about Messiah to Handel:
I hope he will lay out his whole Genius and Skill upon it, that the Composition may excel all his former Compositions as the Subject excels every other Subject. The Subject is Messiah.
The subject of the past 23 days of reading, listening, and praying has been just that: Messiah. It is the subject excelling all others. It is the subject that prophets loved to tell, that drew angels to earth, and sent humble shepherds running. It is the subject that reached Handel at his lowest and fired his energies and genius.
Today’s Scripture tells how those who first heard about Messiah’s birth “wondered”. Who would not wonder at a baby born in a cattle stall who was “God with us”. Let the words sink in: this baby was “God with us”. At one sublime moment, God became a helpless baby needing to be held, cared for, and fed. But this baby wrapped in strips of cloth had come on a mission: to represent God to us and represent us to God. He entered into the swirl of history to be God with, and God for us. He came to bring us back to God.
The text says that Mary kept, or treasured, all the things that happened, “and pondered them in her heart”. It is an interesting Greek word translated as “pondered”; it means “to connect one thing to another”. Mary connected the things foretold by the prophets, to the things she had been told by the angel Gabriel, to the things she had seen with her own eyes.
The text also says Mary pondered these things “in her heart”. That is, in her heart, or center of all her affections and desires, she connected everything about her little Son, Messiah. It was not enough for her only to connect the facts, but in her heart to worship and adore.
Now that Advent is over and Christmas has finally come, this is a good time for us to also treasure and connect in our hearts the things we know. We have heard the story of Christmas so many times, but we need to let it settle deep in our hearts.
So why not take some time today to look back over the 23 days you spent with God, reading and listening to Messiah. Browse through the pages and pick out one Scripture text that especially speaks to you this Christmas. Read the passage again, ponder it, and let yourself wonder.
Play again a piece of music from Messiah that you enjoy, and be inspired by its message. Make connections, ponder, and embrace the mystery. Finally, why not be like the Christmas shepherds and tell others today the Good News of Messiah! “Behold your God!”
PRAYING MESSIAH ON CHRISTMAS DAY
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you through these days you have spent with Messiah?
- What do you want to say to God on this Christmas Day?
- Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence, to wonder and adore.
The Musical Selections
Comfort Ye My People
Evry Valley Shall Be Exalted
And The Glory Of The Lord
Thus Saith The Lord of Hosts
But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming
And He Shall Purify The Sons Of Levi
Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive
O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion
For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover The Earth
The People That Walked In Darkness
For Unto Us A Child Is Born
There Were Shepherds Abiding In The Field
Glory To God In The Highest
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion
Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind Be Open’d
He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd
His Yoke Is Easy, His Burden Is Light