The Real Meaning of Christmas
I’ve been dutifully reading my Magnificat Advent book each day. Our pastor gave them out at the beginning of Advent, and at first, I didn’t like it, but I’m getting more into it with every passing day.
A Busy Day for the Angel Gabriel
Each day has a short Bible passage marked out and a brief, one or two paragraph commentary on it – mostly stories to get you to start thinking. I started joking with friends that I never noticed how busy the angel Gabriel was in the months leading up to the birth of Jesus. First, he’s got to go Zechariah and tell him about John….then he’s got to strike Zachariah dumb because he won’t believe…then he’s off to Nazareth to visit Mary, and he’s got a lot of explaining to do there….then oops, now he’s needed over at Joseph’s house, because the virtuous young carpenter has second thoughts after finding out his betrothed is pregnant, and he knows he’s not the dad….and so on.
I never noticed this until each day’s reading happened to focus on one of these stories. Suddenly I realized: Gabriel was quite the busy angel!
All joking aside, it got us thinking about the real meaning of Christmas.
Tracing Faith through the Ages
It all began, of course, with Adam and Eve and that nibble of the apple or pomegranate or whatever that got them both in a lot of hot water with the Almighty. Then throughout the ages, we have a lot of back and forth, covenants made and broken with the chosen people, the Jewish race. Until finally, God looks down at his people, miserable under the Roman yoke, and decides: Now’s the time.
But he can’t do it alone. He needs someone to say yes. And that someone is a 14-year-old virgin, engaged to be married, who – if she says yes and is, in fact, pregnant without knowing man as the bible tells us – could be stoned to death. According to our pastor, the tradition in Jesus’ time was that Mary would be led in shame before her parent’s house by Joseph. Joseph and her parents would have been forced by Jewish law to cast the first stones in the hail of rocks that would kill her.
Who Is Mary?
We think of Mary as that haloed graceful lady in a blue robe portrayed in statues and paintings. She’s come down to us as this larger-than-life figure. She’s the Queen of Heaven and our protector. She bore the son of God, she stood by him, she stood at the foot of the cross and was among the first disciples.
It’s hard to remember that she was a terrified 14-year-old talking to….an angel.
Mary’s Yes Changed the World
The true meaning of Christmas, to me, is that yes. It’s like the shot heard round the world at Lexington and Concord. That yes was the yes heard round the world. It wasn’t just “Let this be done according to your will.” It was…
Yes, I believe.
Yes, I accept this…and anything that may come my way, including shame, dishonor, and death. (A real possibility for her)
Yes, the world is worth redeeming.
The Meaning of Christmas: Yes, I Will, Lord
Today, instead of rushing to the mall to give gifts, how about giving a yes to God in honor of that first real Christmas present – the yes of Mary? Say yes to showing patience instead of annoyance with someone. Say yes to spending time with a family member. Say yes to whatever God puts into your heart that he wants done….you know he does it; he talks to each of us through the small, still voice known as intuition.
If you can’t hear it, it’s still there. Spend a bit more time in quiet prayer or just in quiet, by yourself, meditating if you can, and you’ll start hearing it.
Christmas is about yes. The greatest present ever given to you or to me wasn’t a toy or a gadget. It was that whispered Yes in a little house in Nazareth when asked if she was willing. Mary said yes. And thanks to that little present, we have been given riches unimaginable.