The celebration of the birth of Jesus gets lost from the beginning in the Black Friday sales which are advertised in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Commercialism had taken over Advent over the last century, so that any church celebrations become just a footnote to this major gift-giving season. It’s sad because, for us Christians, Advent and Easter are the highlight of our year. This year let us put the celebration of Advent in our hearts and minds ahead of the decorations, the gifts and the entertaining that are always part of the Christmas celebration. My blog posts this Advent will hopefully bring us to our knees in celebrating Jesus’ birth and His coming ever deeper into our lives. Advent begins when an angel comes to Mary and announces:
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!…Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:28-33)
Mary is surprised and shocked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 4) The angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (v. 35).
Mary is not yet married, only engaged to Joseph, so she is shocked at this announcement. I am sure that it will take some time for this completely unexpected announcement to settle into her being. Her immediate response is this: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (v. 38). And the angel left. What amazes me in her response is her immediate surrender to this whole new direction in her life. Not only is she not yet married, she is about to birth the Son of God!
She heads off soon to visit Elizabeth who is also pregnant with John, but in her old age. When Mary comes, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps with joy. Elizabeth celebrates her pregnancy: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?…Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (vs. 42-45) I am sure that, here in the presence of Elizabeth, Mary experiences an echoing of her call to birth the Son of God, a reminder that it is true. And now she, along with Joseph, have to plan how this is going to work.
Has God ever surprised you with a call to give your life to Him or a suggestion that shocks you? Think of how Mary must be feeling on this first day of Advent. Surprised, committed, nervous, perhaps, but determined to live up to this role of mother to the Son of God that God has called her to. Her reaction is also a guide to our own reactions to what God asks of us: committed, definitely, but also overwhelmed and not sure how all that He asks of us will be fulfilled. Think back to all the surprises that have come to you in your life, with or without God’s announcement, and how you responded to them. We never do know ahead of these surprises what is coming, but what I have learned is that my agendas and my plans are useless when it comes to the Lord’s plans. They always come without warning, and then it up to me/to us to adapt to what He is asking of me/us, be it a small request or a huge one.
We could name each of these surprises as Christ coming again to us. We are not meant to arrive on the spot of perfect devotion to God in a single decision to follow Jesus. We are meant to always be adapting and learning and expanding our knowledge and experience of the Lord until the day we die. We human beings were designed to continually grow into the changes that come to us, warranted or not. We are not to be static human beings who know it all and can rest in that knowledge. Our lives in loving God are meant to be always growing toward the goal of serving God in any way that He asks of us and to be perfectly fine in answering every call.
Mary is a wonderful example of adapting to God’s will throughout her life from this announcement of the birth of Jesus through her to having four other sons: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Matthew 27:56) It must have been a challenge to raise four human sons along with Jesus. From what we know of Him, when He was 12, He stayed in the temple in Jerusalem after the celebration of Passover. It was a day or so before his parents saw that He was missing. When they found Him in the temple courts after three days of searching, Jesus said to them, “ ‘Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them” (Luke 2:41-50). Later, she had to watch her son’s death on the cross. How crushing that must have been for her.
So, for Mary, as for the rest of us, what God asks of us is full of blessings and sorrows, ease and challenges. And yet, as with Mary, He is with us every step of the way, encouraging, supporting, protecting, loving and forgiving us, no matter what. And our job is to accept what is in our lives, to surrender to it, even, so that we can feel true gratitude which opens the door to joy and humility and love. It is in the advent, the coming of something new in our lives that we really get to know God and to fully know ourselves. Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I aware that God is constantly sowing new beginnings in my life? Do I look forward to these events or resent them? Am I open to what the Lord blesses and challenges me with? How could I become more embracing of what is new in my life? How can I be more like Mary in my response?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are open to all that He wishes for us, the blessings and the challenges. May we see the value in each; may we be able to accept all the changes, knowing that God is with us in them all.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 9.19.22’s is entitled “Digging Deeper into Our Resistance.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.