The presents have been opened, ribbons cleared away, Christmas dinner has been relegated to Christmas Past. The standard question has gone from, “Are you ready for Christmas?” to “Did you have a good Christmas?” Everyone seems relieved that the preparations, if not the holiday, are over.
Yesterday I got to thinking about the first Christmas. If you think our preparations are stressful, think about Mary’s! She was a young girl in a patriarchal society, pregnant and unwed. When the marital status issue was finally settled, she had to take a trip roughly equivalent to going from St. Louis, MO to Tampa, FL on a donkey. I can’t even imagine.
What I can imagine is what she thought at the end of the journey, when she held her baby. “It’s finally over. I don’t know how I did it all, but he’s here and now we can all settle into being a family.”
I wonder if she was surprised when they left Bethlehem and went south instead of north, or if she was too groggy from Joseph waking her in the middle of the night to notice at first which way they were going. Did she try to get Joseph to stop for directions? Or was it enough when he told her the angel said to go that way? How old was Jesus when Mary first realized that his birth wasn’t the end, but the beginning?
I’m sure she knew when Gabriel visited her that her life would change, but did she realize in that moment that she crossed the threshold from girl to woman? So many of our huge, life-changing moments are like that. They seem ordinary at the time, and it’s only in hindsight that we can see the whole course of our lives changing direction. Even if we recognize it in the moment, we often don’t realize how big the change will be, and we almost never realize what the fall-out will be. I think that’s why we don’t have the ability to see into the future. If I could see the full magnitude of seemingly small changes in my life ahead of time, I’d curl into a ball in a corner and cover my head with my blankie!
I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2014 will bring you joy. See you next year.