After a few weeks of the rough-edged John the Baptist, it’s a welcome change to ponder Mary, the teen-aged girl who came to be pregnant in an unorthodox way. Instead of reacting with anxiety and fear, Mary praises God for the gift of this child, and for the honor of serving as his mother. I wonder if I would have been so gracious, so sure of the promise of the angel.
Someone said, “Life is what happens while you were making other plans.” As a planner, this thought has always bothered me; I like to know what’s coming. But I acknowledge the truth, that much of our experience in this life is unplanned, unexpected. How we manage those experiences makes a huge difference.
I remember my older brother, when his daughter became pregnant in high school, not much older than Mary would have been. I immediately thought of all the difficulties this new situation would pose for her future. I’m sure my brother thought of those too. But his main response was this: “It’s new life. You’ve got to celebrate it!” And he did – he and his wife made room for a new little family in their basement. All these years later, that grandson is one of the chief joys in my brother’s life. Now that boy has a younger brother – another love of his grandpa’s life. Much to celebrate.
A human infant contains the great paradox of our existence. On the one hand, a tiny package filled with life and possibility and hope. On the other, the most vulnerable and fragile little being, utterly dependent on the care of others to survive. We have seen at the southern border of the U.S. just how fragile a child is. We as a nation have not celebrated and valued human life as we ought. A baby is a sign from God: a call to compassion.
As Advent draws to a close, find a moment to sit in silence and ponder this gift of an infant, sent to be a sign to the human race: a sign of hope, a sign of fragility, a sign of love from God. Will you make a place for this gift in your own heart? JBM