The Advent season, which starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving, is a time of preparation and expectation for the Christ child, which culminates on Christmas Eve. Most churches are filled with bright red poinsettias, nativity scenes and Christmas trees filled with meaningful ornaments. Often times the service ends with everyone holding a candle and singing the carol Silent Night. The ambiance of the whole experience fills me with warmth and blessing that God’s is faithful in sending his son, the promised Savior.
Like most people, Christmas is a special time of year for me. I love the colors that shine brilliantly on trees, on homes and in store windows. It is a festive time filled with the hustle and bustle of shopping, Christmas programs and people greeting each other with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” One of my favorite Christmas experiences is the Christmas Eve church service.
Most of us are very familiar with the biblical story of Mary. In the first chapter of the gospel of Luke, God sends the angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she had been chosen to be the mom of God’s Son Jesus. Can you imagine being Mary? Historically, she might have been no more than 13 years old and already engaged to Joseph, which was probably arranged by her parents. I can only imagine the conversation between Mary and her parents when she told them she was pregnant and the baby was not Joseph’s baby. How scandalous! Did God prepare their hearts to “hear” the truth about the baby’s father?
As the story continues, a very pregnant Mary and Joseph, travel to the city of Bethlehem and end up having their baby in a barn made for animals. It is easy to gloss over the actual giving birth process and celebrate the Savior but I have given birth to two daughters and the labor was long and very painful. Can you imagine how scared this young girl was, as she managed to give birth without pain medication, no doctors or even a midwife to coach her. Or even no disinfectant to protect her and the baby from infection. The only help she had was her husband. This tradition might be popular now in our time but not in first century times. This whole story was a scandal from top to bottom.
In my reflection, I wonder if Mary realized that when she admired her precious baby boy, she was looking at the face of God? That she was kissing the cheek of God. Many artists portray the baby surrounded by the glow of brilliant light or a halo to draw attention to the divine baby. But was he just an ordinary baby to his mom and dad? Did he have soft sweet baby skin when Mary touched his face and kissed his cheek? Given that he was the promised Son of God, I have imagined him to be the perfect Christ child, who lay quietly in his mom’s arms just waiting to be fed. Did he cry earnestly, demanding to be fed? Was Mary a nervous mom as her baby cried because he was hungry? As a mom, I admire this special young woman for her courage, strength and willingness to be the chosen one to bear God’s Son.
I believe that is what is so special about the Christmas story. Jesus came to this world in the most ordinary way to ordinary people in a very ordinary place. Mary and Joseph were part of a much bigger story. His birth was announced first to the lowly uneducated shepherds. His birth brought strangers from a foreign land following a star, who risked their lives to pay homage with gifts fit for a king. This baby came to earth to bring love, joy and peace to all people. I hope Mary had an opportunity to enjoy a few precious moments with her baby before she had to share him with the world. One wonders if Mary knew that her baby was different.
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the Great I Am.*
*Lyrics by Mark Lowry
Please enjoy this lovely song