As Christmas approaches, many of us are probably wrapping presents, baking, and preparing for gatherings and/or travel to celebrate with family and friends. We know that this is a most holy season of remembering the great gift of God’s presence come to live among us. Yet, it is too easy to be caught up in the day-to-day hurriedness of the modern season.
We are very quickly reminded of the real message of this Christmas event by today’s readings. Mary’s song of the Magnificat is filled with extraordinary proclamations and strength of belief.
Elizabeth Johnson observes, “Mary’s Magnificat … shows a woman whose consciousness is deeply rooted in the heritage and wisdom of the strong women of Israel. Knowledgeable about the liberating traditions of her own people, this friend of God stands as a prophet.” Dietrich Bonhhoeffer writes: ‘It is at once the most passionate, the wildest; one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung…These are the tones of the women prophets of the old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.’
Unlike the peaceful, manger scene that we often associate with Christmas, this Mary is ‘full of grace’-of God’s message, not only to and with Elizabeth, but to all of us in the tradition as Christ-followers. Mary calls to mind the rich heritage from the book of Samuel, echoed in today’s Psalm, as well as the story of Hannah from the first reading of Samuel.
Hannah brings her toddler son, Samuel, to the temple to dedicate him to God and then, to leave him at the temple with Eli. She does this to fulfill her promise to God because she was granted her prayer that she may not be barren, but that she would bear a son. Hannah is only one of the many strong women of the Jewish scriptures and traditions of which Mary is aware as she sings her Magnificat.
What do these amazing women….Mary, Elizabeth and Hannah … have to say to me/us in these pre-Christmas days?
Perhaps it is time to slow down…take some time for quiet reflection about the real meaning of the season. For what and for whom did our God make God’s presence real in this world? Coming into our midst in a very human manner as a helpless, needy infant, yet bearing great presence of love in his very being as Mary and Joseph swaddled him in their embrace. God’s presence IS among us in each and every encounter with others in order to remind us of how much we are so loved just as we love this very precious gift of God’s presence.
Isn’t this what we are called to at Christmas? Isn’t this what the Magnificat is reminding us: That God DOES love us, but also awaits and desires our love response to and with each and every person that comes into our midst? We are touched by God through others, and they in turn are touched by God through our presence to them.
God’s presence doesn’t depend on the greatness of our status or what we possess. It depends on our interaction of being present in the NOW…being LOVE MADE FLESH in our day to day life with one another.
My prayer today is that I/we will open our eyes, hearts, and lives to the quiet stirrings of God’s coming in the midst of each of our lives.
May we respond by becoming ever more a living God presence to and with all whom we meet during this blessed season.
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