30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’
I have a psychologist friend whose specialty is working with youth battling addictions. He once told me that he thought that the number one addiction in the world is the addiction to outcomes. By that he meant our tendency to think that things have to turn out a certain way before we can be happy. With this way of thinking we set up certain minimal requirements before we are going to allow ourselves happiness.
This can happen to me at Christmas as I tend to think that a happy Christmas requires the whole family being together. Or I think that a happy Christmas means everyone being in reasonably good health, and getting what they hoped for.
But what does that mean for a Christmas when the whole family can’t come together, a Christmas when the economy isn’t so good, or a Christmas with discord among believers? What does that mean for a Christmas when things don’t go as planned or hoped? Is it possible to take Christmas just as it comes and be joyful? Is it still possible to rejoice in the day the Lord has made?
I think of that first Christmas and how everyone’s plans are horribly messed up. A beautiful young teen turns up inexplicably pregnant. Wedding plans made when bride and groom were mere toddlers are hastily scrapped. Oh, the heartache, disappointment, and confusion! But young Mary takes it as it comes and says:
‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ (Luke 1:38).
I often think about how the Christmas stories we love to tell are stories about plans gone awry. There’s Tiny Tim, crippled and dying, in “The Christmas Carol.” There’s George Bailey’s profound despair in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And who could forget the penniless young couple, madly in love, but without any money to buy gifts in O’Henry’s, “The Gift of the Magi.” And then there’s a little baby, on a cold night, pushed out to a cattle barn because there is no room for him in the motel. Here are stories of hope and joy in the midst of struggle and want. Here are stories of fulfillment and meaning.
And for us and our stories this Christmas, we may not get the outcomes we wanted. But there can be joy and wonder regardless, because He is still God-with-us, Immanuel.
Surprise us Lord!
- For the Water from Rock daily Advent reflections see website, WaterfromRock.org, “Advent Devotionals” .
- Add to your Advent celebration by joining us Tuesday, December 1, 8, 15, at 7:00 P.M., at the Franciscan Renewal Center for “The Gospel According to Handel’s Messiah.”
Awe-inspiring and sublime, Handel’s majestic Messiah has thrilled listeners for more than 250 years. In these Tuesday classes we will delve into Messiah’s text that is taken from the literal words of scripture and discover the historical and biblical background of the texts that inspired the music. This will surely add to your joy and this Advent!
- Weekly Bible Class on ROMANS 8: THE PINNACLE OF GRACE
Every Tuesday, 11:00 a.m., at the Franciscan Renewal Center
Bible scholars have described the eighth chapter of Romans as “the mountain peak of Scripture,” and the “chapter of chapters for the Christian.” Another commentator has said, “If Holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans a precious stone, chapter eight would be the sparkling point of the jewel!” You’re invited to join us in an exploration of Romans eight and the heights of God’s grace!