Thursday, December 8, 2011


What can Mary teach us about how to prepare for Christmas?

Okay, that question sounds entirely too simple, entirely too superficial. What can Jesus’ mother teach us about Him? I’m sure that she could teach us everything we ever wanted to know. There is probably not a person in the history of the World that has known Jesus better. So, to ask, “What can Mary teach us about how to prepare for Christmas?” is like asking what Aaron Rodgers could teach us about throwing a spiral, or what Mozart could teach us about playing the piano. The question just doesn’t seem to do justice to the vast knowledge owned by the expert we are asking.

Nonetheless, what can Mary teach us about how to prepare for Christmas?

First, she can teach us about how we are respond to God’s question about whether or not we have a place for him in our lives: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” We are foolish to think that God’s plan for us will bring us anything but our heart’s greatest desire. Whether it is to become a missionary, doctor, social worker, behavioral therapist, or mother, we must be open to God’s call for us when it comes. And, for as scary as what He asks of us might be, we need to accept it with grace and confidence, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” or in the words of St. Ignatius, “In all of this may I place my life in your hands. Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will.”

When God calls us, let us have the grace and confidence to accept the fulfillment of our heart’s greatest desire.

Second, Mary can teach us that preparing for Christmas takes much longer than 25 days or from the day after Thanksgiving or even the day after Halloween (as Big Business would have us believe). The funny part is that Big Business, despite its misguided reasons for doing so, actually has a better concept of how we are to prepare for Christmas than most devoted Christians do. But, if we were to get it right, we would start preparing for Christmas on March 25- the Feast of the Annunciation. Mary’s preparation began the day that she was “conceived by the Holy Spirit”. When we think of the many changes that a pregnant woman undergoes from the beginning of her pregnancy until giving birth, we come to realize the many ways that we should prepare for Christ’s coming. We should prepare Him room. We should take care of ourselves and get our affairs in order prior to His birth. In light of today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception, our preparation extends beyond 9 months; our entire lives must be spent in preparation for the God's call. Like Mary, we were conceived for a special purpose. 

Preparing for Christ to come into our lives should completely change our lives – our habits, our bodies, our thoughts, our desires – everything. And, this preparation takes much more than four weeks. It takes a lifetime.

Third, Mary can teach us that when we say yes to God’s call and we make room for Him in our lives, that He will be with us for much longer than just Christmas morning. Jesus doesn’t pass into and out of our lives throughout the course of Christmas Eve night. He doesn’t visit us once a year. Despite all that He does bring us, His focus isn’t on what He brings us, but on what we will bring to Him and to others. Much like the difference between a wedding and marriage, raising a baby has a much deeper level of responsibility than does giving birth to one. Accepting baby Jesus into our lives requires of us a commitment, a dedication, a loyalty that we will put Him above all else. Carrying out God's mission for our lives involves much more than merely signing the contract. 

If the preparation takes a lifetime, living with Jesus after accepting Him into our lives takes...well, it takes us into eternity. 

In all of the hustle and bustle of this season be courageous enough to conceive of some new ways to prepare for Christ's coming. Be courageous enough to follow your heart's greatest desire. Be courageous enough to allow God to tell you what that is. Be courageous enough to accept the purpose for which you were conceived. 

Be like Mary.