We say "Merry Christmas" countless times during the month of December. In fact, we say it so much that it can become rote and meaningless if we're not careful. A couple of days ago, while reflecting on this unfortunate reality of such a beautiful holiday greeting, I thought of an alternate, homophonic idea...the idea of Mary's Christmas.
I've often wondered what Mary's Christmas was like. A teenage girl, traveling through a largely inhospitable land, pregnant with child, suffering certain derision from folks passing judgment on her assumed immoral relationship with Joseph, finding only a barn in which to deliver her child, having only a wooden feed trough to cradle her child, and wondering what in the world God was doing. Was she fearful? Most certainly! Was she in a precarious life situation? Absolutely! Did many challenges await her in the future? You bet!
Yet, in the midst of all of this, Mary sung a heart song...a song recorded for us in the Gospel of Luke. Called the Magnificat, these words give us a clear glimpse into Mary's faith in God and trust in his plan. "And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. “He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55, NIV)
Consider Mary's proclamations: "My soul exalts the Lord," "the Mighty one has done great things," "His mercy is upon generation after generation," He has done mighty deeds," "[He] has exalted those who were humble," and "He has filled the hungry." In other-than-ideal life circumstances similar to Mary's, most of us would buckle under the pressure and stress. Most of us would throw our hands in the air, give up, curse God, and quit. But what does Mary do? Like Job, she never abandons her faith in God and like Peter before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4), she sings praises to the Almighty! She trusts in God's plans, provision, and power. Even when the burdens of life were bearing down on her shoulders, her back remained straight and her legs sure.
How are we handling the stresses in our lives today? Are we focusing on the troubles, the burdens, and the trials themselves, or are we focusing on God? We can learn something from Mary and how she handled the first Christmas, folks! We can learn about perseverance in the midst of trial, focus in the midst of chaos, and trust in the midst of faith. We, too, can learn to sing for joy even when trappings of joy seem far off.
"Merry Christmas" is something reserved for the month of December. Say it in July, and you'll certainly receive odd looks from those around you. But the idea of Mary's Christmas can be reflected upon all year long. In fact, Mary's Christmas is nothing short of a timeless and foundational principle of faith...one demonstrated by Mary, Job, Peter, and many others throughout church history. And it is a principle we need to hear in our fast-paced, stress-filled world today! So, this season I say to you, "Mary's Christmas and a Happy New Year!"