I’ve always wished I could witness first hand the angel coming to bring the news to Mary. Here was an ordinary teenage girl experiencing the supernatural phenomena of a messenger from God Himself. I can’t hardly wrap my brain around it let alone conceive how I would respond if I were her.
And yet Mary’s response captivates me. When she got over the shock of the news Gabriel delivered and her heart most likely full of questions, her reply was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true. Then the angel left.” (Luke 2:38)
Brilliant response. Faith-filled and a heart that held trust as a core value. She didn’t cower or run in fear, she believed and pressed into the experience. That alone speaks of her immense faith. Is that why God chose her, because of the strength of character and belief demonstrated by her life?
As I read the story I focus in on three gifts she seemed to embrace. They are all imperfect, but yet they were the gifts that set her course.
The first gift was humility. She acknowledged that she was God’s servant and knew she couldn’t do this by herself, she couldn’t orchestrate how it would all happen, she had to rely on God, she had no choice. It was all faith or nothing.
The second was acceptance. She was willing to accept the imperfect process of how God was laying it all out. Her life changed forever that day the angel came. So many questions unanswered and yet she confirmed to the angel that she would trust and believe that God would indeed bring it about and let go of any control.
The last gift she embraced was the gift of faith. She had the faith to believe in something bigger than herself by hoping that everything the angel said would come true.
Mary embraced the gifts of her fragile humanness and her imperfections. Those around her, the heritage of her people the Jews, expected so much more. In some ways they demanded their Messiah to come in pure perfection, royalty and splendidly. But Jesus trumped the expected and came unexpectedly. He arrived in a smelly barn, with dung and hay and poverty. He was perfect, but he came to an imperfect world. Jesus was a huge disappointment in his arrival to the nation of Israel because he turned everything upside down. No wonder they had a hard time embracing who Christ was. His calling card was less than perfect.
In the same way, Christmas can come as a disappointment to us in its arrival because of our own expectations. In the days leading up to Christmas, I don’t think that is our intention. It evolves because we have so many other voices and vices that dictate what it should look like. It snowballs and takes us by storm. For instance, we expect this time of the year for everyone to behave themselves and be holly and jolly. Why should they, really? Just because it’s Christmas? Why would all of a sudden those cranky relatives turn up at your door-step transformed? When will we get it? We are an imperfect people and when the stress elevates it heightens our behavior. Each and every one of us have a default switch when stress shows up in full force.
How do we avoid slipping into that mode and flipping that switch? We follow Mary’s example. We embrace the three gifts of humility, acceptance and faith. Here’s what I think it looks like.
We don’t try to do everything all by ourselves and our way.
We set limits.
We ask for help.
When we are tired, we readjust.
We practice humility by letting someone help us that might not do it ‘our way.’ I have a confession to make. I didn’t exercise humility when we put up our Christmas lights last Saturday. I got impatient. I had a vision in my head and expected my husband to read my mind. I was cranky and had to apologize later. Who wants to help a cranky person anyway? No one. Be humble, let go and share the diversity of making Christmas happen, together.
We accept the imperfect days leading up to Christmas.
We surrender to sitting and practicing ‘being still.’
We listen to that small still voice and remember that people are more important than anything. That includes the person who wants to steal your parking place at the crowded mall, or the person who cuts in line when you’ve waited and are next. We surrender unruly emotions and turn them into kind acts of service and words. We accept imperfect all around us.
Lastly, we believe.
We choose to believe that Christmas is bigger than us.
It isn’t about you or me, presents, lights, dinner, relatives, a clean house or a perfect Christmas program. It’s just about Jesus.
God coming near to our brokenness, our failure, our emptiness and offering His incredible love wrapped up in a song of hope and peace.