The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Preparing for Advent… and Christmas, growing up. Getting out the Nativity each season… and the ornaments for our tree. My favorites were the extra pieces we had with our Nativity set … the ones that didn’t really go with the original set – the caravan of wood carved camels, and the painted statues of the shepherd boy, with the sheep on his shoulders, and the two additional sheep. And my favorite ornament – one that was the shell of a walnut, latched closed, that opened to reveal the tiny baby Jesus and two tiny angels hovering over him.
I have that same Nativity set now – the same one my parents bought the year they married. It’s still special to take it out. It’s di?erent now for me, with my own children. We still have the extra ?gures of the shepherd boy, and his sheep. I don’t know where the camels are. I think the ornament is up in a box in my mom’s attic. That will come to my house. Another year.
These words to Mary, in Luke 1, words of comfort and promise, before the original Nativity came to life, told her not to be afraid. They speak of the past, the present, and the future. The past… a time that came before us now… the time of Jesus’ ancestor, David, before him even then. The present… the waiting and preparing of the continued season of Advent now… the feeling of fear in the moment, comfort in that fear for Mary then. And the future… this kingdom of goodness, to which there will be no end, then and now.
Approaching the Advent season now, brings about for me as I get older, almost a feeling of dread, so di?erent than what I felt as a child. There’s a bit of a feeling of fear – not one that can begin to compare to the feeling of fear that Mary must have felt. It comes from the anticipation of the business of the season, the weight of the responsibility that can come with the season – I think particularly as an adult, the commercialism of the season, a certain level of expectation for the season. And the timeline. What seemed like forever as a child, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, now seems to move too fast. It’s overwhelming. I think for me, it’s just about feeling there’s too much of what’s not really important, and not enough time and space for what is.
But, this challenges me to turn myself, and my family, more toward that future message… the one of comfort and promise… that there is a reign of goodness forever. In the midst of what feels like too much, like a lot of what’s not really important… there is no end to the goodness… if you look for it. Boy, that can be overwhelming, too. A big responsibility, to myself and to my family. Maybe it’s about getting out of the fear in the moment, and looking for the bigger picture… the one that connects past, present and future. There is certainly comfort and promise in that. Maybe if we just got out the Nativity each year… that would be enough.
Dear spirit of Advent… let us look at this time, beyond just the present moment, and remember the comfort of the past and the promise of the future, and allow your light to shine on the beauty and simplicity in all things. Amen.