Christmas and the miracle of ‘Yes’

Sister Mary Core, OSB

By Sister Mary Core, OSB

Sunday, Dec. 25/Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

At the Vigil Mass

Isaiah 62:1-15 / Psalm 89:4-5,16-17,27,29 / Acts 13:16-17,22-25 / Matthew 1:1-25

Mass During the Night

Isaiah 9:1-6 / Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13 / Titus 2:11-14 / Luke 2:1-14

Mass at Dawn

Isaiah 62:11-12 / Psalm 97:1,6,11-12 / Titus 3:4-7 / Luke 2:15-20

Mass During the Day

Isaiah 52:7-10 / Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4,5-6 / Hebrews 1:1-6 / John 1:1-18

We all know the wonderful and, by anyone’s standards, somewhat unbelievable story of Christmas.

It begins with the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-25) at the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. The genealogy of Christ sets the stage for the wonderful event. We learn that Joseph has married his fiancée, Mary (despite the fact that she has become pregnant, and not by him).

Later, at the Mass During the Night, we learn that Mary and Joseph have journeyed to Bethlehem. There, Mary gives birth to the child, in (of all places) a barn for animals. The shepherds in the field (of all people) are visited by angels who announce the birth as good news.

The Mass at Dawn continues the story, as the shepherds go in haste to the stable where they find Mary, Joseph and the baby. They spread the word.

This baby, born in a barn, surrounded by dusty animals and unkempt field hands, is the Savior, the long-awaited Messiah. (Luke 2:1-18)

Now comes the powerful line that — after decades of reading it — this year, stopped me cold: “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Certainly, Mary must have pondered, questioned and doubted what was happening in her life. After all, she was just as human as you and I, and I know I would have questioned the events; maybe even wondered about my own sanity.

Yes, I suspect Mary pondered, big time!

RESPONDING IN FAITH

She had asked other questions nine months earlier when an angel appeared to her and told her she would give birth to the Messiah. She was troubled then and asked, “How can this be?”

Rather than a direct answer, the angel told Mary that her elderly, barren relative Elizabeth was with child, “for nothing will be impossible for God.” I think it is in her response to the angel that we discover how Mary can question and ponder and not run away: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary’s response is one of faith and trust in God. The “unbelievable” becomes believable because of her deep, abiding faith and trust.

And now, here in a barn, miles from home, she ponders once more: “I have a son, a beautiful child. A child whose birth the angels proclaimed to a group of smelly shepherds in the countryside. A child who is sleeping in the food trough because the hostel is filled and we are being obedient to the Roman Caesar.”

Mary’s “Yes” has produced many profound consequences already, and, as we know, will produce many more. I imagine her continuing to ponder, on that humble night in the barn: “Will Joseph remain faithful? Or will he send me away as the law allows? My mind is swimming. I don’t understand. I’m filled with fear, with joy, with so many questions. All I can do is trust and believe that all this is from God.”

INVITATION TO PONDER, TRUST

As you listen to the story of the Nativity this Christmas, I invite you to ponder and to trust, as Mary did.

As you look back at a year in our country filled with so much violence and failing in Christian morals, can you still trust that God has the big picture?

Just as with Mary, our journey is not without pain and question. We wonder, we ponder, we question: Why this cross? Why another burden? How will we get by?

Just as with Mary, our journey is not without pain and question. We wonder, we ponder, we question. . . . Like Mary, when things are not clear or understood, God’s grace gives us what we need to freely accept or reject all.

Like Mary, when things are not clear or understood, God’s grace gives us what we need to freely accept or reject all . . . and accepting can include shaking our fist at the heavens.

Trusting and believing says God is big enough, loving enough, forgiving enough to accept our questions, denial and disbelief. Our pondering doesn’t have to be quiet or pretty. Eventually — with God’s grace and our “Yes” — it will lead to trust and faith that God is with us, and all will be well.

Merry Christmas. Like Mary, “keep all these things, and ponder them in your heart” and may your greatest gift be the miracle of your own “Yes” to God.

SISTER MARY Core is a member of the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, where she serves as liturgy director. She also leads the Women’s Book Club for St. Maria Goretti in Coal Valley, and Mary, Our Lady of Peace in Orion.

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