As we journey through Advent towards Christmas, many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of a secular type of Christmas. Many would become so overwhelmed and distracted that they will completely miss the true and beautiful meaning of the season. In fact chances are, Christmas Day they will be so exhausted that they would not have the energy to enjoy it. That is not what the season of Advent or Christmas is about. The purpose of Advent and of Christmas is not to get all caught up in the secular interpretation of the season. In fact the only thing that we should be busy about is making straight apart in our lives for the coming of Christ Jesus. When we put things into context, in their proper order, then we will realize that much of what we do is absolutely irrelevant and unnecessary and should therefore be avoided at all costs.
We are into the final week of Advent and the Scripture passages speak a lot about Mary and the events leading up to the birth of Christ. The previous weeks of Advent spoke about hope, and about preparing for the coming of Christ. That coming can be in so many ways. Many think of it only in terms of the end of the world, but there is so much more to the coming of Christ and what it means, or rather what it should mean. For those of us who believe in Christ Jesus, the coming of Christ occurs every single time we open our hearts to Him; he comes, he comes to us in a new and powerful way. God’s ultimate desire is to be one with us, and so he gives Himself to us in a very real and powerful way every time we celebrate Holy Mass. He comes to us in the form of bread and wine that is changed into the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus. Emmanuel God constantly with us!
In these final days of Advent, the countdown is indeed on. The malls are filled and overflowing, the roadways are jammed with traffic, anxiety is high, as people go on spending sprees all supposedly in the name of Christmas. At this time of year many seem to spend a lot of time, effort, and money cleaning out and buying stuff. But is this what advent is about? Is that what Christmas is about? Many people are saying that they have to clean the house for Christmas, or buy a fresh set of curtains for Christmas and a whole host of other things, all in the name of Christmas. While all of these things are in themselves good, they have absolutely nothing really to do with the season. In fact they can very easily become distractions keeping us from really enjoying an encounter in Christ in Advent and Christmas.
As mentioned before we are pretty much in the last few days of Advent. Christmas is a few days away. At this last weekend in Advent and the days that followed, the readings are focused very much on Mary and on her role in salvation’s history. If we pay very close attention to Mary the Mother of God, we will learn a lot about Advent and about how Christmas should be spent.
Here we have a young girl, Mary, whose heart’s desire was to do the will of God. That teaches us a lot. Some may ask why should God’s will be of paramount importance in their lives? Well the answer is quite simple. He is God! He alone is God. He alone is holy. He is the author of all creation. Every single breath that you and I breathe comes from him and from him alone. When we awoke this morning, it was because He willed it to be. Every grace, every blessing that we ever had, and that we have now and that we will receive, comes from Him. God has our best interest at heart. No one else, and I mean absolutely no one else can ever love us the way that God loves us. Need I say more?
How many of us can genuinely say that we are about God’s business? If we are honest, we will recognize that much of our lives is not about doing God’s will but rather about you doing our own will and fulfilling our own selfish desires that can never ever compare to God’s desires for us. When we think about it really, it makes no sense.
Mary placed herself in harm’s way by saying yes to the angel to be the mother of Jesus. She placed herself in harm’s way because by saying yes to give birth to a child outside of marriage meant that she could easily have been stoned to death, no questions asked. Neither would Mary have been able to offer any kind of defense to her accusers. Imagine Mary standing before the scribes and the Pharisees to defend her pregnancy and she was not yet married to Joseph. What could she say? If she told them the truth, they would stone her even faster for not only being an adulterer but also for being crazy and maybe even blasphemy. So when Mary said yes to God’s invitation to be the mother of our Lord, she was well aware of the possible consequences; but Mary trusted God. Even though the road that God was asking her to walk did not make sense, and she did not know how the story would end, she still said yes because she knew that if God brought her to it, He will bring her through it, and He would be with her every step along the way.
Many of us need to take this page from Mary’s book about trusting in God. Not only should we believe in Him but we should also believe Him – I hope you can see the difference between the two. Mary teaches us to trust God totally and unreservedly no matter how the situation may seem. She teaches us to have that simple childlike faith in God. We need to adopt the attitude that if God says so, then so be it! No ifs, no ands, no buts; no questions asked.
Another amazing thing about Mary was that after saying yes, yes to God’s will for her to be the Mother of God, she immediately went off to be with her cousin Elizabeth who too was with child. In other words, here we have a young girl who had just received this miraculous visitation from an angel who told her that she had been chosen by God, to be the mother of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Mary was not anxious after the news. She did not get proud or haughty. Rather she remained that simple beautiful maiden who loves God more than anything else in this world. Most if not all of the Scripture readings about Mary portray her as being very level-headed and humble in spite of the major role she was chosen to play. Transcribing Mary’s attitude to the political arena where during campaigning for elections, the politicians would walk around and rub shoulders with all in the community, that is until they are voted in. After that you don’t see them at all. It is as if they have become so important that they have no time for the lowly. Yet here we have the Mother of God going to serve her cousin Elizabeth.
Unfortunately many of us sometimes think that we are better than others. And sometimes not only do we think this but we also act it out. We talk down to others, and we have little or no sense of serving others. We think of serving others as something that slaves do; but here we have the mother of God going out to serve her cousin Elizabeth. This teaches us a very serious lesson in humility and in service.
One of the things that my wife and I talk about a lot is how people dress. We have a large number of young men who seem to think that they have to wear their trousers off of their buts exposing what should normally be covered up. Similarly we have quite a number of young women who do not seem to recognize their bodies as being temples of the Most High God. The end result is that there are very many desecrated temples walking around. Unfortunately this problem spans not just the younger generation, but many older people seem to be adopting this type of mentality towards their mode of dress. Both my wife and I are convinced that what we see is the result of very many people who do not know, or who have no idea of how precious they are in God’s eyes. As a result of this low self esteem, they do not treat themselves and others with the respect, with the reverence, and with the dignity that they should. Again looking at Mary, what can we learn? Here we have again a young girl who after her encounter with the angel, made the proclamation that said, ”I am the hand maid of the Lord.” Mary knew quite well who she was. She did not have any identity issues.
I am reminded here of a Winnie the Pooh movie I saw some years ago. In this particular movie, a baby eagle fell from its nest high, high on the mountainside, and fell onto a chicken farm. Even though this baby eagle did not look anything like a chicken, it did everything the chickens did. Even though the chickens themselves told the baby eagle that he was not one of them, it kept on acting and living as if it were a chicken. That is precisely how many many of us behave. Many have completely lost their sense of identity, their sense of worth, and are selling themselves cheap. They have given up their royalty to become the lowest of slaves. Mary teaches us that in Christ Jesus, we are worth far more than this world says we are. Those who existed in Mary’s time would have branded her an adulterer but in God’s eyes Mary was his specially chosen vessel to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world and Mary knew that and she lived that truth. Quite contrary to how Mary saw herself, many people see themselves through the eyes of the world, and that is a sad, sad mistake.
So even though we have but a few days to go for Advent and then Christmas comes along, there is still time for us to experience the real presence of God in Advent and to make our hearts fertile birthing places for His Son Jesus Christ to come and dwell. We have just started the Year of Mercy where the Holy Roman Catholic Church reminds us all of the tender love and mercy of our God that knows no end. Let us avail ourselves of this mercy that God has for us so that we can be more like Mary and be able to say, “let what you have said be done unto me according to your will.”
Do have a holy Advent. May you come to know and experience the great joy of coming to know our Heavenly Father as you draw closer to Him through Christ Jesus our Lord. May God bless you richly.