Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Christmas Time . . .

Christmas time is a time of year that I've come to really enjoy . . . and hate at the same time. I can remember as a kid and even as a college student loving Christmas, because that meant, as a kid, that I would get all kinds of gifts and as a student, that meant we got a break from school. It was a time to hang out with friends, spend time doing nothing, sleeping a lot and getting new gifts.

Well now that I'm not a kid anymore or one that attends classes anymore, on one hand, I'm ready for this season to be over. Is that okay to so say?

More than ever, this year I've truly been able to focus more on the true meaning of Christmas than I have in years past, but I hate what Christmas has become, and I think I hate it more now, because my focus has shifted, but I can't seem to get away from my old thinking because its all around me and it easily sucks me back into that mindset.

But I have learned one thing from this shift in thinking this Christmas. I have been able to read through the Gospels and the birth and life of Jesus with new eyes. I've been able to pick up things that in the past I have so easily past over. Through conversations and reading of his blog, a good friend here in town has really caused me to see the story of Jesus' birth different and I would love to share.

The statement Mary makes to the angel Gabriel, "May it be to me as you have said", could be one of the most moving statements I've read and thought about in a while. A statement of humility, of sacrifice and of surrender.

Then give or take a few years, 30 years later, we find her son, with the weight of the world on him, the torture he's endured, the pain, the fear, the isolation he feels; we find him making a similar statement, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Now I normally think, well yes of course Jesus would say that, he's the son of God. He's Jesus. But my friend Matt proposes the question that maybe it's not that simple. Maybe, Jesus was able to say that because his mother once said something like that many years ago. Maybe Jesus grew up hearing the story of his birth and of his mother making humble statements like that, surrendering her will, her life to her Heavenly Father. Did Jesus learn to give up his will because that is how he was raised?

And this is what Matt suggests, "When Mary gave herself, her future, her life’s trajectory over to an overwhelming, scary promise of God, she didn’t just set herself up for something. Instead, she gave permission to those around her, to those watching that they could do the same. She’s still giving me permission today."

Such a beautiful statement. Mary is still giving us permission today that we can give ourselves to something bigger, to this God that we so often talk about. She is showing us and challenging us to not just talk about Him, but to believe in Him, trust in Him, give everything to Him.

It's when we give ourselves to something bigger, that we give those around us permission to believe that they can do it too.