In the Gospel according to Luke we have the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Both are pregnant; Mary with Jesus; and Elizabeth with John the Baptizer. And Elizabeth cried out: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb (words that became part of our Hail Mary). Elizabeth recognized the presence of God in Mary, the living Ark of God.
Mary is our model of discipleship par excellence. For me, what was unusual about Mary was her reliability. No matter what life pitched at her, Mary did not duck.
Her entire life can be understood as a series of annunciations--God constantly calling Mary to reflect His compassion, to persevere in faith and trust, to mirror in her motherhood of Christ God’s providence or unconditional love for all of us.
And as a woman of faith, Mary responded simply: Be it done to me as you say. Easy to say when things go our way; but not so easy when what is happening is the opposite of what we want.
Mary’s “Yes” gave us the world’s greatest love story. Centuries ago St. John in his prologue to the Gospel summed up that story in a single line: the Word became flesh. Yes, John wrote: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Through Him all things came to be and apart from Him nothing came to be. He was the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. And the word became flesh and made its dwelling among us.
The Word became flesh. That single line carries us back to the beginnings of the human family where man and woman, so the Book of Genesis says, walked with God, had a relationship with God and one another. Somehow they lost that friendship. Genesis describes very simply yet very powerfully that fall from grace. They hid from God; man blamed woman; even earthly elements worked against them.
But God did not leave us. Remember in Isaiah: Can a mother forget her child? And even if she should, I will never forget you. And so began the story called our salvation. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
And so what does Christmas mean? Emmanuel: God-with-us. St. Paul wrote: God’s favor, God’s grace has been revealed to us in Jesus. Jesus, crucified and risen, anticipates what every human being hopes to become. And until he comes, we are to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The Word of God invites us to discover anew the true meaning of Christmas: to keep our promises; to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ; and to trust always in God’s unconditional love for us, a God who became flesh in Jesus and is alive in our midst by the power of the Spirit.