Joy to the World

I watched Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation last night. . . well most of it. I had heard about it but hadn’t seen it. Now I am humming the national anthem with the image of the Santa and his reindeer twirling through the night sky. Never mind about the squirrel.

There are so many images and sounds this season. Cash registers and crying children and people eager to get through the line. There are also signs of generosity as people give to support Global Missions, underprivileged children and families, Toys for Tots, and the Mitten Tree. You don’t have to look too far to find a way to exercise your spirit of giving this year.

Growing up in the church, I didn’t hear too much said about Mary the mother of Jesus. She made her appearance as a porcelain figurine next to the other nativity characters, but she wasn’t mentioned as a key player. I knew that the couple was always “Mary and Joseph” and that there aren’t any recorded words that Joseph uttered. Yet, there was a reluctance to elevate Mary in the Christmas story.

I think some of that has to do with views like her perpetual virginity, even though Mark 3 mentions her along with Jesus’ brothers. And in some circles she is the focal point of prayers: “Hail Mary, full of grace. . . ” I suppose those are reasons to avoid the subject, but by doing so we miss out of some important information about the one who brought the Christ child into the world.

Mary is not “meek and mild” but rather an active and honest participant in the narrative. She asks the angel “how?” and upon hearing the explanation responds “I am the Lord’s servant, let it be according to your word.” Her response of faith follows the key component of the angel’s message: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

In short, Mary gets the last word. And that word is “yes.”

It’s a tough thing to say yes to God when you don’t know all the details, yet that is pretty much what she did. She didn’t know about the upcoming trip to Bethlehem, no room in the inn, no crib, and the humble beginnings for their family. She also didn’t know about the shepherds or magi who were destined to come. I wonder whether she had a clue about the pain and rejection her son would experience, as well as the joy that he brought to others. A lot of details were yet to come. She didn’t know all of those. She didn’t need to know. What she built her faith on was the phrase, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

It’s important to celebrate Christmas with Easter in mind. There was a purpose in God sending his Son to the earth. We know that purpose now, and realize that without the faith of Mary there would be no stories of redemption and hope and love and joy. Her obedience is a great example to each of us that no matter what it is we are supposed to do, our answer to the Lord should be YES. Let Him handle the details.

It had to have been an exciting time for Mary and Joseph. It doesn’t mean it was easy, however. The same is true for us.

As we lighted the Advent candle of Joy last Sunday, it served as a reminder of God’s presence in and through us as his people. Joy is not necessarily dependent on circumstances, but a mindset that keeps us focused and at peace.

It’s an emotional season, and that’s okay. Some people are having Christmas without a spouse or other loved one for the first time this month. It will be difficult. For this reason, it is so important to have connections with the body of Christ so that through our shared life experiences the story of Christmas can be shared and gain increased meaning.




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