Christmas is full of journeys....
Each year Christmas is a journey for me. Each year, I travel with a different character. One year, it was with Zacharias, on a personal journey from doubt to faith. Another year, I made the long trek with the wise men, seeking and depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in their case through a star. Yet another year, I travelled with my dear St. Joseph, moving from fear and challenged to put faith into action. And I simply can’t tell you how many times, I have sat with St. Mary, shared in her awe when the angel appeared, persevered with her through that rough terrain as she prepared to give birth to the Saviour, and rejoiced in awe with her as she worshipped the Baby King.
This year, I travel with her in a brand new way.
This year, I am receiving some special gifts with her. She has received a visit from three wise men. They give her frankincense, gold and myrrh. She accepts the frankincense as a present for the newborn king-foreshadowing Him as a priest. I, myself I have learned to relate to Jesus as my compassionate High Priest. Next, she accepts a generous gift of gold, celebrating Him as our King. I am learning what it means to truly worship Him in His glory. But myrrh??? Myrrh??? What kind of gift is this for a newborn??
And so, this year, this year, I connect with St. Mary at the point of receiving a gift of myrrh, foreshadowing the death of her only beloved Son.
It’s been a year of much loss. Loss of friendships as the ebb and flow of life changes their dynamics. Loss of a dream to serve God through the poor overseas. Most importantly, loss of my own Baba (daddy). A day I had thought of, but still can’t believe has happened. And it’s been a year of loss for many. Many pillars in my personal church community have been called Home. On our national scene, beloved people such as Jack Layton, have also departed for the next life.
And this year, as I think about how to relate to the meaning of Christmas, I was stumped. Truthfully, a big part of me was dreading it, not having my Baba around. Not celebrating at his Christmas party...not singing with his friends who always make me laugh, dreading the emptiness that can be so present.....So, this year, I think about St. Mary. I wonder what it was like to receive myrrh at her Son’s birth. And so I sit with her, meditate with her, as she ponders in her heart.
Today, I take comfort in knowing that she knows what it was like to see Someone she loved suffer an agonizing death. On the fortieth day after Jesus was born, the Holy Family goes into the temple as was customary in those days. They meet Simeon a devout Jew who had been waiting decades for the Messiah. When Simeon sees Jesus, He praises God and is finally ready to depart from the earth, as he has seen the Messiah he has waited so long to meet.
But then he also says to St. Mary, “your soul will be pierced with the sword.” Her Baby is just over one month old. I imagine her tired and weary but still with the glow of a new mother. And these are the words she receives. Was it like an arrow of anguish that pierced her heart? Or was she already beginning to understand the pain that would be involved in being the Mother of God? I am not sure exactly how St. Mary received these words, but I do know one thing for sure-the birth of Jesus brought indescribable joy, but it was laced with pain. This is what I am coming to treasure about Christmas now-there is room for everyone at Christmas, joyful and mourning.
But, I just can’t stop here. It’s impossible. The journey has just begun. The story isn’t finished! This Christmas, I also receive Simeon’s words to St. Mary in a brand new way...
"for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)
This year, I connect with the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus was born to die. Through His death and Resurrection, we can spend eternity with Him. Right now, my dad and all of our loved ones are in eternity with our Blessed Saviour. They have a front row seat to the angels who appeared to the shepherds and they sing with the angelic voices...”Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill towards men!” They rejoice with St Mary and St. Joseph, kneel with Simeon, bow down with the Magi.
This year, I have learned that the Christmas journey is a journey of joy laced with pain, but ultimately a journey of hope.