By Not Known

Christmas can be irritating. If you are travelling or live overseas, it can mean separation from family and loved ones. If you are working or serving in church, it means being busy while others relax. And then there’s the ceaseless pressure to work through ‘to do’ and ‘to buy’ lists. Meanwhile, the seasonal Bible readings and carols can fade to a meaningless drone with our contempt for the familiar.

Amidst all this, yet another call to have a ‘Merry Christmas’ can make us fume. Perhaps we need a ‘Mary Christmas’.

Mary had every reason to be irritated. First there was the troublesome journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for census purposes – and surely a census-based tax would follow. Then there was the baby. Misconceptions surrounded the pregnancy and now there was the delivery. A barn was no substitute for a delivery suite at KK Hospital and noisy animals were no substitute for caring nurses. And then they were on the move again – fleeing to Egypt in the middle of the night. Would she ever get home to show the boy to her folk?

Despite all this, Mary rejoiced at Christmas.

Her joy was expressed in a song that we call the Magnificat, from its opening words in Latin (Lke 1:46-55). It draws on another mother’s song (Hannah in 1 Sam 2:1-10) and puts the birth of Jesus in a big frame. Mary is an able theologian as she interprets her son’s birth through the lens of God’s power, mercy and covenant promises. Every baby is special, but this one was more special than most.

Notice where Mary’s focus is. It’s not on herself, apart from to confess her humble state. Nor is it on the passing circumstances or what we could call Christmas trivia. Rather, her eye is on God and his big deeds. She sees God acting on her behalf to be her saviour and is glad – very glad. That’s an interesting twist. Parents can resent being overshadowed by their children,
but Mary welcomes it. Her son will be her saviour!

Let’s take time to have a Mary Christmas this year. Maybe we can say ‘no’ to a few invitations in order to spend deep moments with God. This can be time for a meditative reading of the nativity accounts, perhaps with Handel’s Messiah or a well-chosen version of the Magnificat spiralling our thoughts and prayers heavenward like incense.

Whatever we do this Christmas, let’s join Mary and rejoice in the Lord. Then maybe Christmas won’t be so irritating after all.

David Burke