Here we are entering the week of Christmas. It came so fast for most of us, but for our littlest ones it was undoubtedly painfully slow. As we begin this week, it is time to reflect a bit on what it is that we celebrate with this feast day and the season around it. Christmas is one of our significant feasts. It ranks with Easter at the foundation of our Christian faith.
The figure of Mary looms large as we come to Christmas. She is the Bearer of God. It is through her that the mystery of the Incarnation takes place and God enters our humanity. In the Incarnation God reaches out to touch our humanity. The wonder is the way in which God has done this, for divinity and humanity have come together in the person of Jesus. In the Incarnation, Mary becomes an instrument of God’s plan, the one who bears God into our world.
Mary is also often regarded as the first disciple of Jesus. As mother, it was she who raised him and saw him into manhood. As he carried out his ministry of announcing the Reign of God, she was part of the disciples who heard the proclamation and learned its meaning. In John’s Gospel, we see Mary identified among those who stood with Jesus at the cross. She was a faithful disciple of her Son to the end.
Each year on the fourth Sunday of Advent our attention turns to Mary. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all present us with the figure of this woman of faith and of courage. In doing so they set out the surprising news that God has a plan that we could never possibly have imagined. This news takes us into the story of Christmas and the Incarnation.
With Mary we can be surprised by the way God comes to us. We will not always understand it, but we can certainly be amazed by it. In the Old Testament God reached into Israel’s story through prophets and people of all kinds. In the New Testament, God steps into our history in the Incarnation. God surprises us in the way he does it.
Beginning with Mary, we see that God’s attention is directed at the insignificant in history. The stories we will hear and celebrate at Christmas will be of people and places that are small and ordinary. Mary, Joseph, Nazareth, Bethlehem. These are not the great of their time. But God has chosen to be with the small and the vulnerable. In doing so, God has called us, like Mary into a relationship of care and compassion for the vulnerable of our world. This is living as disciples of Jesus.
Can I be a disciple - an advocate for peace, compassion, justice and mercy in my world?