We just got our tree up a few days ago, our elf just arrived this week (he was “stuck in the north pole”), and I’m behind in my advent readings.
Friends, this week has been hard for me. My heart is broken and I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas season. It just doesn’t feel quite right for me this year. I’m hurting and I feel like I’m just going through the motions with all the holiday “stuff”.
And I know I’m not the only one. Christmas is not a joyful time for all; there are those who’ve suffered loss and will have an empty place at their homes this year; others struggling with broken relationships, friends who are enduring illness, loss, financial hardships, physical struggles and who basically are just having a hard time as others around us are “celebrating” the season.
I’ve been trying to focus on Advent and preparing my heart to receive the Lord but right now it’s a struggle.
And so I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary this week. I’ve been thinking about how she must have felt before she had Jesus; what her “Advent” might have been like and the words that come to mind are honestly not all nice and joy-filled.
Yes she was blessed and full of grace but she was human and likely may have felt:
Uncomfortable- She had to travel for 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem in her 3rd trimester on a donkey. . .
Lonely-She was traveling to Joseph’s hometown and leaving behind her family and loved ones; she was a young girl about to have her first baby and I’m sure would have wanted to be loved on by her own family.
Confused-What could God have planned for her? Why her? What did it all mean?
Overwhelmed-As a young woman, going to a new place, with a guy she may have not known all that well, and there was no room for them anywhere, so she had to give birth in a barn? And oh yeah, her son was going the be the Son of God. . . .
Ashamed or embarrassed– Perhaps people were still talking about her? Gossiping and spreading stories questioning whose child she really was carrying. Though Joseph listened to the angel and committed to marrying her; it’s likely that people around them didn’t’t understand and had their own “opinions” about her situation.
Pain-Though Jesus was the son of God He was born of a human woman and I’m pretty sure it was not super fun or easy for Mary to deliver her firstborn.
Exhausted- Traveling, labor, sleeping in a barn and then having a newborn . . . um, yeah Mary must have been truly exhausted.
Can we relate to any of those feelings this Christmas? I know I sure can.
And I love Mary because of her humble obedience to the Lord but I also believe that though she wanted to do God’s will she must have had some doubts about what she had gotten herself into. Because those feelings of pain and suffering-they didn’t end after Jesus was born in fact that was just the beginning. I wonder at how she did it; how she kept faithful through it all.
And because I’m going through some personal “stuff” myself; the more I looked at Mary’s story the more I started to get frustrated and almost angry with Jesus because He caused His dear mom some grief:
*He got lost in the temple-Mary must have been so worried
*He shrugged her off during the wedding when she asked for His help-she might have felt embarrassed
*He left home to pursue His ministry-she might have felt alone or abandoned
*He ignored her and His brothers-she must have felt rejected
And just when I start to get mad at God because I’m convinced that He is surely good but definitely not always nice because how could he send His Son to the world to be born of a woman who would love Him SO much and then treat her like that . . . I remember this part:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27
He sees her. Right there at the end; in the pain and the heartache. In His own pain He sees her in HERS.
And Jesus could have just said nothing to his mom or said He loved her or something but instead He shows it by making sure that she is taken care of. He knows her; He knows exactly what she’s going through and what she’s been through. And He knows that what she needed most at that time was to be with those who knew Him and loved Him most because He’s been with her all along.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23
God was with Mary, He was within her.
And maybe we’re not feeling very “merry” this season and that’s OK, but we can still have a Mary kind of Christmas because just as he was with HER from before His birth; He is with us-
In our sadness
In our pain
In our struggles
In our loneliness
In our shame
In our mess
He is with us.
His birth changes everything because even in sadness, and heartbreaks, He is there. He redeems.
And just like Mary we can await His birth with open hearts; knowing that it won’t be an easy journey but trusting that He will always be with us. And living with the expectation that He can take all of our sorrows and redeem our stories as well.
This is the joy to the world.
Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel