Sunday, December 6, 2009
We began to celebrate the Christmas season over the past week, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Providing for humanity to be saved by God taking on a human role, however, required first a perfect vessel to deliver that physical birth to the earth.
In his gospel, Saint Luke tells us the story of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary saying "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!" Gabriel was sent by God Himself to the teenage virgin who had been chosen as being worthy of body, mind, and spirit to bear the Lord in her womb, give birth to the infant, and be responsible for raising Him as a child.
At the point at which Mary is presented with the idea of becoming the Mother of God, she has a choice. Mary's body wasn't taken over by God, she was not forced to take on this responsibility. She was not herself bred for this sole purpose. She was a normal, young, human woman.
One thing that we know about human beings in their relationship to God is that we have been given a 'free will', the ability to make our own choices and decisions. We have the choice to accept or reject God and His plan for the world and for us as individuals. Mary was given this same choice, and she chose to say "Yes" to God.
This is not at all the same idea of 'choice' involving a pregnancy that has become a hot political and social topic in todays world. In todays arguments, the 'choice' is not between becoming pregnant or not, in having a child or not. Today the alleged 'choice' is between killing a baby that is already in a mothers womb, or of delivering that baby fully and allowing it a chance at a full life.
But what a brief look at the difference between Mary's very real choice and that of women today in the abortion debate does highlight is the idea of consequence. If a woman today chooses to continue her pregnancy, she is allowing the natural process to go forward, and allowing another human being an opportunity at a full life. If she chooses to kill the baby, the baby is dead and has no chance at life.
What would the consequences have been for humanity had Mary said "No" to God? Could anyone have blamed her? She was, after all, just a teenager, already engaged to be married to an older man. How would she explain the pregancy to her fiancee', to her family, to her community? Would anyone, even the most ardent of believers in the idea that God would one day send a Savior, believe her story?
At the point that she made her choice, Mary did not know that God would send his angel to Joseph in order to ease his own mind. In fact, she had no idea exactly what God's ultimate plan would be for the baby as He grew into adulthood and beyond. Would God have moved on to another young woman? Would God have delayed his plan for mankind's salvation for years, decades, generations?
All of that is pure speculation, of course. But considering the idea that Mary had a choice, and that Mary said that "Yes" to God, provides us with an example. During this Christmas season more than any other, God is calling us all to say "Yes" to Him and to His Son, Jesus Christ. Every one of us now has the same choice as given to Mary.
Over the next few weeks most of us will be pretty active in preparing for the Christmas holiday. We will be shopping for toys, games, and gifts for family members and friends. We will be decorating our homes. We will be buying food and cleaning our houses in preparation for parties, guests, family gatherings. We will be taking pictures and wrapping presents and attending parties at which we will drink too much.
How much time will you take over these next few weeks to consider the reason that all of this is happening? How much time will you be taking to think about the birth of Mary's baby, your Savior, Jesus Christ? Will you give him an hour every Sunday? Will you give him an hour or so on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Are you willing to give Him even that little bit? Is that even enough?
Maybe all of those gift, decoration, and party considerations should really be secondary considerations for us. Perhaps we should be thinking about Mary's initial decision to choose to accept Jesus into her life, and about Jesus' ultimate gift to all of us in his death for our sins.
I hope and pray that during this Christmas season while doing all of the fun things in today's commercial world, we truly keep with us at all times that 'reason for the season', the welcoming in to the world of the infant baby Jesus, and give thanks to a young mother who made the right choice two thousand years ago.