The Gospel stories throughout Advent speak of three main characters that help to prepare the way for Christ. Mary and Joseph, Jesus's biological and earthly parents, respectively, literally prepare for Christ's entrance into the world. John the Baptist, the other main figure over the past four weeks, prepared people for Christ's entry into public ministry. St. John the Baptist gathered believers to himself before pointing them to Jesus. All three set the stage for Christ to come into the world.
All three prepared Him room.
Let every heart follow suit.
Mary's yes and humble obedience is well discussed and documented and even debated. Her central role in bringing Christ into the world is starkly obvious. Christ came into the world as all humans do - through His mother. Beautiful and miraculous, all births take place because of the strength, love and care of women. Mary's importance is undeniable. Her special favor only surpassed in Christ Himself. Her simple "yes" has resoundingly echoed in the world ever since.
"Let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).
Mary's model of saying yes to God, preparing for His coming and nurturing that relationship has no rival. However, Joseph's and John's roles have an incredibly powerful message as well. Radically say "yes" to God. Submit to His will. Decrease so He can increase (John 3:30). Point others to Christ. Be humble and generous of spirit. Defend Him. Protect Him. Trust and accept that accepting, embracing and following Christ can bring joy greater than your heart's most burning desire.
Joy. Singing. Resounding joy! Wonders of His love!
Say yes. Let it be done to us according to His word.
The counter-cultural slant of these messages are not new to the 21st Century. Submit. Obey. Be humble. Put God first, others second and yourself last. Don't worry about ridicule or rumor. Be indifferent - not in a way that doesn't care, but in a way that doesn't care who gets credit. Society's emphasis on power, greed, fame, money, status, sex, and pride did not result at the dawn of the Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, printing press, aviation, sliced bread or even the internet. These emphases / ailments have been around for as long as humans have.
But, Jesus, in an earthly sense, hasn't. His birth was a mere 2,000 years ago, about 1% of the total time that humans have been on the planet. His birth was foretold by prophets. His coming was anticipated for centuries. Angels visited good people to tell them about the coming of the Lord. God started a relationship with Abraham and led His people according to His plan. But, even Abraham lived only about 2,000 years before Christ. Undoubtedly, there were good people prior to even God's covenant with Abraham. Undoubtedly, there were good people before the coming of Christ.
There should be even more good people after. Blessed are they who do not see and yet still believe (John 20:29). But, foolish are we who know of Christ and yet still don't believe. As I reflect on the past year, I think of all of the good people that have gone home to the Lord - my dad, my wife's grandmother, my sister's father in-law, my brother's father in-law, a colleague's father, the patriarch of a close family friend, a humanitarian from my hometown, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, and countless other good people that left this world. I think of all of the pain, hurt, violence, war, hunger, illiteracy, and abuse in our world and I think that there aren't enough good people in the world. People who hold the door. People who let you in front of them in traffic. People who give up their seats so that families can sit together on planes. People who want to give more than they want to receive, love more than they want to be loved. Good people.
And then I think of Christmas. I think of the magnitude of God taking on our earthly state. God was a good human. Mary was a good human. Joseph was a good human. John the Baptist was, too. Countless people have been good. Countless people are good. God is doing something about all of the pain, hurt and sadness. He has done something and will continue to do something. All is not lost. Hope comes into the world in the same way that every child comes into the world - by being born. Be good. Be so good that other people want to imitate your good. Be good when you don't have to be. Be good when no one is watching. Do good. Be good. For God. For others. For yourself. Be good for goodness and for Goodness's sake.
Prepare Him room. Sing. Be good.
Emmanuel! God is with us!