When I was a young kid, I would spend Christmas Eve counting down the minutes in anticipation of Santa Claus’ visit. As an adult, I spend the time now counting down the minutes to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and reflecting on where I stand in my own faith.
Unfortunately, my faith comes and goes like the wind. I fail more times than not, I’m the worst kind of Christian believer. However, there are times when the Bible does speak to me and I’m better able to see God’s message and the connections to my own life.
Take Luke 1:26-38.
It’s a simple verse that touches on the season. Gabriel comes to speak to Mary to tell her what’s coming. For Christians, especially Catholics, this is an important verse. I remember reading this verse with interest as a teenager, but it hit me even more when I converted as an adult to Catholicism and has especially touched me this year.
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”
Like many people, I’ve certainly been troubled by the past year: the pandemic, the partisanship and ugliness of our political discourse, and financial and job concerns to name a few. The year has not been an easy one. My present situation is different than Mary’s, but I can relate to her fears of the unknown.
“Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a TV show called Different Strokes about two African American kids from Harlem taken in by a rich, white Park Avenue businessman. When Arnold, the younger boy was puzzled, he would say to his brother: “What’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” It became his standard line and I often feel like repeating it to the heavenly one: “What’choo talkin’ ’bout God?”
Mary has just been told that God loves her and she will give birth to the savior. Like Mary, I know God has a plan for me, but is this really what he had in mind? What’choo you talking about Lord? Can’t we take an easier road to get to the Promised Land?
“But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.”
I’ve always been amazed by the fear that Mary must have felt, but have also had great admiration for how she rose to the challenge. She didn’t question, negotiate, or even whine. She simply said, “Yes Lord, you called, how can I help? Your will be done.”
Me? I fret, I worry, I look for an out-clause. Yes, 2020 has been a strange year, but I still trust in God. When he calls for me, I’m praying that I’ll have the same response as Mary: “Yes, Lord.”
My wish for you is all the happiness, peace and joy of the season, today and everyday. Christ be with you. Merry Christmas.