Trees are arriving on the roofs of cars, ornaments and decorations are coming forth from attics and basements. Cookies are baking. Ribbons and brightly colored paper are stacked in corners and closets are filled with shopping bags.
While the spice of cinnamon mingles with the scent of pine, children try desperately to “be good” all the while nearly shivering with anticipation.
That is the word that most perfectly describes this time–anticipation. And it is now beginning to reach a fevered pitch. All things are headed inexorably to one end: Christmas day.
Children reflect in rare moments of quiet just how it can be that Santa will visit every single house in one night. Wonder and miracle are the words of the day. Not only children, but even adults are subject to moments when pure magic seems in the air.
As our readings this week tell us, this sense of miracle and wonder are central to our faith lives at this time of year. Today we are astounded at how beautifully all comes to a head–the promise is about to be fulfilled. Anticipation fairly crackles in the air. Christ is Coming!
From Second Samuel to Luke we listen in awe. God has promised and God will make it so. So long after the promises Nathan reveals in Samuel, the final step is taken in Luke. The angel Gabriel visits Mary and gives her the astounding news that she is to be the Mother of God. In her will grow the fulfillment of the promise. God’s son will come to his people.
As we read, we quicken in our anticipation, even though we have been through this story and “the event” so many times before. It has that kind of power over us–the ability to reawaken within us that sense of wonder and miracle.
No matter how we view the story, we feel it. Was Mary really visited by an angel? Did she conceive this way?
Does it matter? In truth, no. For as with much of what we read in the stories of old, it is not always the actual facts that matter, but the beautiful truths being exposed.
No matter how it happened, Mary is to give birth to a man whom we believe is the Son of God, specially made and blessed with the ability to bring God to us in an extraordinary way. Through him, we will learn more than we can imagine about what it means to love God, to be God’s creation, to be loved beyond measure. God reaches out to us in this most personal of ways, in our simple humanity, and becomes REAL.
And Mary? Oh goodness, can there be a more perfect answer than hers?
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary responds with the most radical of faiths. If I am to be a single woman and pregnant in a world that reviles and rejects such women, then let it happen, if that be God’s will. Mary asks no more that to do God’s will. Whatever the consequences to herself. She asks no favor, no explanation, no protection. She simply bows to her God.
Think of Moses and his arguing, and Jonah. Think of all the prophets, most of whom did whatever they could to refuse God’s command. How they hid in their “unworthiness” and limitations. It was just plain old fear. Fear that life would not be the same, and that it would be hard.
But not Mary. No, this simple girl is portrayed quite differently. She assumes no superiority, nor any objective bravery. She simply acquiesces, since she can imagine no other response to God.
That is a wonderment. That is a miracle. That is what stops my dead in my tracks as I read this beautiful story.
Could I ever do this?
Could any of us ever do this?
Never. But, we now know one thing. We must try.
Mary has defined faith. Will any of us ever be the same?2Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 Ps 89: 2-3, 4-5, 27, 29 Rom 16: 25-27 Lk 1: 26-38
- 12/18/2011 He Will Be Called the Son of God (richbrownforewords.wordpress.com)
- Saturday, Dec. 17 (prayerscapes.wordpress.com)