Saturday, December 24, 2005

So this is Christmas...

Last minute shopping.
Wrapping gifts. Realizing we don't have the same number of gifts for the kids.
Still more last minute shopping.
Baking sugar cookies, peanut butter and Hershey's kiss cookies, lemon cake, key lime pie, and butterscotch squares.
Dusting and mopping the floor.
Doing laundry.
Calling a friend overseas to pass along Christmas blessings.
Sitting next to the tree.
Recalling where and when ornaments were purchased or made.
On our honeymoon. At Disney World. At Kwanzaa celebrations back in Connecticut.
At home on our chaotic, art-covered dining room table.
Listening to music.

And remembering this John Lennon song:
So this is Christmas
What have you done?
Another year over, a new one's just begun.
For weak and for strong
For the rich and the poor ones
The road is so long.

I ask myself: What have I done this year? Who have I loved? Who have I lost?
Have I remembered the near and the dear ones, the rich and the poor? The weak and the strong? I remember the sorrow of the tsunami, the horror of the hurricanes, the earthquakes, the bombings, the ongoing war. I also remember weddings, births, travel, lessons learned on foreign shores and right here at home.

But since this is Christmas, it's not about me. It's about Him. For me this year, many of my Christmas ponderings and wonderings have been about his pregnant mother, Mary. I know that many of my Protestant friends don't think about Mary very much: too bad for them. Mary gave birth to the One I call my Savior. She carried Him in her womb for nine months, nursed Him for at least nine months, weaned Him, watched Him, marveled at His very existence. She pondered many things in her heart.

On Christmas Eve, which, of course, was not Christmas Eve to her, Mary was weary from her travels. Dusty. She probably had a backache and swollen feet. She must have felt that common nesting instinct, but there was no nursery for her to decorate, no wardrobe of newborn pajamas for her to wash and fold neatly, and no cradle for her to prepare for her newborn child. There were no aunts, sisters, or grandmothers by her side to massage her swollen abdomen, prepare food, or assure her that all would be well. There was no midwife to instruct her and encourage her as she moaned and groaned her way through labor. Sure, she knew that her child was different from all the others. Sure, she knew that what was conceived in her was not of this world, and that must have been reassuring. Life-sustaining. But on one dark night, alone with her husband, surrounded by no choir of angels, Mary gave birth to Emmanuel, Jesus, the Messiah, the Shalom of God. Born a child and yet a king. Born to reign in us, in me, forever. It makes me weep just to think of it: She gave birth to the Christ Child.

So this is Christmas. What have I done? I look around the house, around the living room, and my answers to that question are obvious. The tree is heavy with ornaments, brightly lit and crowned with a star. The gifts under the tree are wrapped and ready to be torn open. But since this is Christmas, none of what I have done matters at all.

Since this is Christmas, then Mary's willingness to be the handmaid of the Lord matters far more than my meager contributions to our family holiday festivities. This year, this Christmas especially I thank Mary for allowing her body to serve as the package within which the greatest gift ever brought to earth was borne. I join in the chorus of all the generations before me who have heeded the early refrain of her song as recorded in the book of Luke: I call her Blessed, and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus.

But what makes this Christmas is what God did.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
Joy to the world, indeed.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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