“I would like to urge everyone to "hasten" towards Christmas, the real one, that is, the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, restrictions and inconveniences await us; but let us think about the Christmas of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph: it was not all rosy! How many difficulties they had! How many worries! Yet faith, hope and love guided and supported them. May it be the same for us! May these difficulties help us, too, to purify a little the way of living Christmas, of celebrating, leaving behind consumerism: may it be more religious, more authentic, more true.”
Today’s gospel takes us to where the Christmas story started: the annunciation of Mary. By her “yes” to the angel’s message, Mary became the mother of Jesus, to whom she gave birth nine months later. The story’s beauty and simplicity should not stop us from noticing what was going on inside Mary during that encounter. Prior to that meeting with the archangel Mary was a normal middle-eastern young girl in love with Joseph. Both had dreams of a beautiful future together with their future family. Now everything has been turned upside down. She is supposed to become pregnant, but without her man’s intervention. Her future marriage and, indeed, her life are in grave danger. She somehow understands that God wants something extraordinary from her, but she has no idea of how it is going to happen and what the consequences are going to be. At the end of it, Mary was only able to say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” The strongest words ever uttered by a person of faith! She recognizes herself to be a mere servant of God, someone who is willing to do whatever the Master desires. And yet, she knows that she cannot do it. What is being asked of her is beyond her abilities and imagination. So, she leaves everything in God’s hands. “Let it be done to me”, she says, rather than “I shall do it”. She knows God must be the author of whatever he is asking of her if He wants it done.
King David had to learn this kind of openness and availability to God. He was used to being powerful and popular. At one stage he realized that it was not right that he was living in luxury while God’s arc was in a simple tent. So, he thought of building a temple for it – a noble idea, the prophet tells him. Yet God soon reminds him how it was, actually God who did all the wonders and powerful feats in David’s life. And so, it will be God himself who will undertake the construction of the temple. God always takes the initiative; He is always in charge.
In essence, this is what Christmas is all about. It is the story of God taking the initiative and coming to us. It reminds me of the day when once, before we had GPS in our cars, I was supposed to meet an old friend who had moved to another town. When I arrived at the town, I phoned him saying that I was next to a certain shop and across a small church. He said, “I know exactly where you are. You stay there, and I’ll come and pick you up”.
Christmas is a gentle reminder that God knows exactly where we are and comes to pick us up.