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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible



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Lesson 2: Mary – The Pondering Parent


Luke 2:1-20.

The Pondering Parent

The Birth of Jesus was un-natural in many ways. Not only was Mary a virgin, but the circumstances of Jesus’ birth were unusual. Mary and Joseph had to leave their village and travel by foot and donkey over 100kms to Bethlehem in order to register for the census.

Mary was heavily pregnant for all that harrowing journey. (She was probably no more than a couple of weeks off from delivery.) Everything had gone quiet on the angel front since that announcement 9 months earlier. No other Divine encounters, no more instructions or angelic visits. Was Mary really carrying the Messiah, the Saviour of the world? If so, why was everything going so un-Godlike?

Why, when they arrived at Bethlehem could they find no accommodation? Why had all their family connections been used up and why were all the hotels and motels full to overflowing. The only place left available for them was an animal shelter – a cave – and the only place for the Baby to lie in was an animal-feeding trough.

There would be none of the usual exuberant family celebrations – just the noise the animals made. Then suddenly they were surrounded by shepherds who came to see her ‘Baby’ and worship God. The shepherds said they had been told to come by hosts of angels who were praising God. Mary and Joseph hadn’t heard the angels but they certainly saw the shepherds – maybe God hadn’t forgotten them after all.

Later when they presented Jesus in the Temple, some people came up to them with prophesies about Jesus, and still later they received a visit from the Magi. Yes, God had told some other people about their ‘secret’, but what did it all mean? They had to live their ordinary lives and yet live with and for a unique and distinctly un-ordinary Child.

No sooner had the Magi finished worshipping Jesus than Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to hurriedly flee for their lives and escape from Israel as displaced refugees into Egypt. Otherwise Herod would have killed Jesus along with all the other boys 2 years old or younger.

Yes, God had provided the gold to supply all their needs in Egypt, but what did the incense and myrrh represent? Incense for worshipping God and myrrh for embalming a dead body? Hardly the ‘usual’ gifts for a newborn baby. Where were the rattle, clothes and cuddly toy? And if Jesus really was God’s love letter and ‘gift’ to the world, how was it they didn’t all recognise it and welcome Him?

How come Herod was so mad and they had to leave for fear of their lives? Was this just a foretaste of what was to come?

Yes, Mary had been obedient and miracles had taken place but she still couldn’t understand it all. However, she learned to ponder and trust. She got on with her life and left the details to God. Yes, it was hard; yes, it was difficult to understand; and yes, it was so unusual it was scary - but through it all her trust in God never wavered and became stronger with every passing day. She learned obedience through suffering in silence.

Mary would say to us today...

The Christian life is not easy. There are many things we don’t understand but God calls us to trust Him completely for today and the future. We only recognise His peace when we fully trust Him during the challenging times.


Father, please help me to be more like Mary. To trust You at all times, especially when I can’t hear Your voice or see Your hand at work. Help me to trust You for the future regardless of where You will lead me. Help me rejoice in the little things that reveal Your love, Your provision and protection, Your mercy and Your grace. Amen.

Additional readings

Luke 2:21-35; Luke 2:41-52; Mark 3:31-35; John 2:1-11.


What has God said to you that you are finding hard?

How can we learn to trust God more?

What stops us feeling the peace of God?

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