“Christmas is a wonderful time of the year – full of festive magic, loving family gatherings, warmth and happiness – except for when it isn’t, it’s a time of extreme anxiety, social exhaustion – depression and money woes” (Belinda Cleary).
Writing a piece for ‘Daily Mail Australia’, Cleary introduces us to 39 year old Emily, a life coach from the UK, working in Australia. For 36 years as a family, they’ve created Christmas traditions unique to them, not to mention ‘movie reels’ of priceless memories. Christmas was a greatly anticipated event, one of the highlights in her life but three years ago, her mum died. Christmas has never felt the same ever since.
How do you cope when Christmas isn’t a wonderful time of the year or when life isn’t wonderful, period?
This is something Mary, the mother of Jesus can perfectly identify with, particularly the months leading up to Christmas. While Mary was a young peasant girl of no standing, she was engaged with her whole life ahead of her. Then out of the blue, her world was turned on its head with news from an angel that she would miraculously give birth to the Son of God, the Saviour of the world (Luke 1:26-38). The news was a double-edged sword.
On one hand she felt incredibly privileged that God had chosen her for such an incredible task that would shape the course of history and eternity. At the same time, she would’ve felt incredibly fearful for her future because she was a virgin and in the society she lived in such news was downright shameful with disastrous consequences.
She could’ve dealt with the vicious rumours by telling the truth, “God, through the Holy Spirit made me pregnant!”. That’d go down really well! And so every day she had to put up with people’s stares and whispers. Let’s not forget how this impacted Joseph’s life as well.
You’ll remember that earlier, Gabriel had said to Mary that she had found favour with God (Luke 1:30). At this point, we might feel aggrieved on Mary’s (and Joseph’s) behalf their lives have been anything but blessed!
It’s a hard lesson we must learn but favour with God, that our devotion to him, our good life do not mean we are entitled to a get of out of jail free card when it comes to disappointments and hardships in life. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that we will experience days of darkness. There will be things that happen to us, to our loved ones or in the world that we will find troubling and inexplicable.
For Mary, God’s favour didn’t not bring her prosperity or comfort. Her world was turned upside down because of it but still she said to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Oh, that we would know how precious our trust is to God!