Luke casts Mary not just as the mother of Jesus, but as the first disciple and, indeed, the model for the discipleship of us all. At the annunciation she heard God’s word and accepted it, just as we do when we become a disciple. But there’s more to it than that. Mary acted on that word. It was not good news for her alone – she went to her cousin Elizabeth, not simply to help, but to spread the good news. For you and me that good news might have been “The most marvelous thing has happened! I am going to be the mother of the Messiah!” But Mary didn’t say that. As her Magnificat makes clear, this was not just about her. Instead, she interpreted to Elizabeth what the angel’s message meant. Her praise of God in the Magnificat makes clear what has happened. God has shown strength, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry. Note the interesting parallels with what her Son will say in Luke’s version of the beatitudes and woes (6:20–26) – the poor and the rich; the sad and the happy, the hungry and the sated, the derided and the praised. They’re all there in Mary’s song of praise, just as they would be some 30-odd years later in her Son’s first major speech.
The late Fr. Raymond Brown summarized what she did as the model for all disciples in this way: “After hearing the word of God and accepting it we must share it with others, not simply by repeating it but by interpreting it so that they can see it truly as good news.”
As we meditate on these stories, it’s important to understand the underlying meaning. The whole Christmas story is, itself, a Gospel in miniature. Some hear God’s word and respond, others turn away and resist.
The challenge for me, this year, as always, and I hope for you as well, is figuring out how to interpret for others what we believe happens at Christmas, just as Mary interpreted for Elizabeth. Christmas is not just for us . . .
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