Tag Archives: Christmas

The Hope of Mary

Standard


During the season of Advent, we wait in anticipation for the arrival of Christmas. Weremember with hope, peace, joy, and love that Jesus was born long ago and that he still brings light to the world today. But hope has been a little harder to come by this year. We haven’t had as many things to anticipate, to look forward to, to get excited about. So many events have been canceled, and planning is virtually impossible. The spread of Covid-19 has created fear and anxiety and has dimmed our hope.

We have such abundant hope about Christmas, in part, because we know what happened. We know the familiar story around Jesus’ birth with angels, shepherds, wise men, and a star. The savior of humanity came into the world that night.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ mother Mary. Mary didn’t know exactly how everything would play out. Honestly, she didn’t have many details. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would cause her to conceive a son who would reign over a kingdom that would never end. Gabriel said, “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 (NIV).

With all of the unknowns, I wonder about Mary’s hopes and dreams. Maybe she simply hoped to survive childbirth. Perhaps her hopes centered around having a healthy baby. I’m sure she hoped to be a good mother. She probably hoped that this crazy situation, becoming the mother of a savior, would work out well in daily life. I bet she wasn’t making plans for how Jesus would eventually become a leader but was more focused on the family she was creating, the baby she would raise with Joseph.

Mary lived with uncertainty and probably a good deal of fear as she waited for the birth of Jesus. Even though Mary did not know the future, she said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Luke 1:46-48 (NIV). Before she knew whether her hopes would come to fruition or not, she praised God and expressed her gratitude because God had her in mind. She believed that God cared about her while still living in the unknown.

This year we should take a lesson from Mary in how to have hope in the face of the unknown. Mary tied her hope to the fact that God had her on his mind. Mary found favor with God in an extraordinary way. But could we also believe that we are on God’s mind? It’s hard to make that leap at times. We often feel insignificant and small. We don’t feel worthy.

But Mary didn’t see herself as holy or magnificent either. She said that God was mindful of “the humble state of his servant.” While she acknowledged that generations would call her blessed and we see her as God’s most blessed woman, she probably didn’t fully realize her significance until long after the birth of Jesus. But she based her hope on God’s love and mindfulness.

God is mindful of us as well. The Psalmist said, “The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us.” Psalm 115:12 (NRSV). How would things change if we had confidence that God is mindful of us? Mary faced many uncertainties and so do we. Let us rest assured that God is mindful of us, and we can place our hope in God.

We Need a Little Christmas Now

Standard

I love Christmas music and tune my radio to the Christmas channels this time of year.  But sometimes the songs simply become background noise because they are so familiar.  We’ve all heard them a million times and know most of the lyrics by heart, so we don’t really listen intently.  But the other day, I was surprised to hear an old classic anew.  The peppy, upbeat “We Need a Little Christmas” began, and the singers belted out the first two lines: “Haul out the holly/Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.”  I thought, what did they just say?  They wanted to stop their spirits from falling again, indicating they were in the midst of recovering from a bad situation.  

Of course, I had to research this song – why did it sound so cheerful if the lyrics suggested possible sadness?  Jerry Herman wrote the song for the musical “Mame,” which premiered on Broadway in 1966.  “Mame” was made into a movie in 1974, so I decided to watch it.  While the musical itself felt somewhat dated to me, the song that became a Christmas standard and has been covered by many artists over the years captured a special moment in the movie.     

The show centers on a little boy named Patrick who must go live with his Auntie Mame after his father’s death.  Mame is stylish, a bit wild, and living large in New York City at the height of the roaring 1920s.  Then, the stock market crashes and ushers in the Great Depression.  After losing most of her possessions, Mame decides that they should pretend it’s Christmas a month early because they need to feel better.  They pull out their old decorations and march around cheerily to belie their sad circumstances.  Mame sings: 

“For I’ve grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now”

This song could’ve been written about 2020 instead of the 1920s.  This year has been so difficult for so many people in so many ways.  A heaviness hangs over almost everyone and everything.  We feel tired and weary.  And while the trappings of Christmas provide some glimmer of normalcy, they don’t erase the pain and isolation that we endure right now.  We may have hope that next year will be better, but we understand that we will still face some of the effects of 2020 and the rifts that exist in our world.     

Maybe this year, more than ever, we need a little Christmas, but not the shiny and perfect kind of Christmas.  We need the Christmas that centers on Jesus, the poor kid born into the world in humble surroundings to save us.  We need to focus on our Redeemer, who taught that we lead best by serving others.  We need to remember that the Word of God who became flesh does not value us because of our wealth, influence, or standing in society.  God loves us and cares about us no matter our circumstances.  God stands with us in the valleys and the darkness.  God will not leave us even in the toughest of times.   

We need to channel God’s love when we feel despair and heartbreak.  We need to spread God’s love to others when we see they are struggling.  We need a little bit of the true meaning of Christmas to sustain us.  Let us believe that Jesus came into the world to bring light and that God still shines light in the darkness today.