My family has never made a huge deal out of decorating for Christmas, but there are a few traditions that are non-negotiable. First, we decorate the Christmas tree, and as we put up the decorations we tell the story of each ornament. Almost all of them are homemade, and they all carry some sort of meaning. Next, we hang up the stockings. Then, we clear off the piano to put up decorations and hang the wreath on the door. Finally, we come to the climax of Christmas decorating. There is a white porcelain Nativity scene, and it is identical to one my mom had in her house when she was a young girl. We unpack each individual piece, in all of their elegance, and place them on the buffet in the living room. My parents unpack the boxes and my sisters and I arrange the characters.
The donkey peeks out from behind the stable, the three wise men hold their gifts, the angel hangs delicately from the top, and the shepherds wait expectantly. The Holy Family huddles together inside the stable, and serenity settles in. The pieces are all set, but still we are not quite done.
When we were younger, my sister started playing a game. She would mime one of the porcelain characters, and we would guess which one she was emulating. We would stand around and laugh as she positioned her body like the camel, the donkey, and sweet baby Jesus. However, her favorite character to act like has always been the woman standing in the stable.
The Mother of the baby holds one hand over her heart, and her other hand stretches out toward the tiny human in the manger.
My sister’s favorite character to act like is Mary.
This woman in the stable is not just a character, though. She is a real woman who led a very real life, and there is so much we can learn from her.
God chose her to bear the Savior of the world in her womb… what a task! She stepped into it with courage and humility, though. Can the same always be said of you and I?
What does it look like to act like Mary in everyday life?
In Luke 1:46-48, Mary says, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.”
Why will we call her blessed? Verse 49 clues us in. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name.”
Her reaction to receiving the news that the King of the universe will be her son is not to draw attention to herself, it is to point all of the glory back to God. She does not say we will call her blessed because she thinks she is better than everyone else and she wants to boast about it. Rather, she wants the exact opposite. Her statement is one of humility. We will call her blessed because the Lord is doing great things in a humble servant such as herself.
I would like to think that my reaction to being chosen to carry out such an important mission would be similar to Mary’s, but as I ponder this, I know I am selfish. I am prideful. I want people to know my name more than I want them to know Jesus’ name.
However, the reality is that you and I ARE chosen, and our mission does not look much different than Mary’s.
She was tasked with bringing Jesus to the world. Is this not what Jesus himself commissioned us to do in Matthew 28:19? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We are to bring Jesus to the world as well.
Upon receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, we are as close to being physically like Mary as we will ever be. Jesus dwells within us. Our next response should then be to give Him back to the rest of the world. He longs for us to take Him to everyone we encounter so that He, too, might encounter them.
Mary could have been selfish. The Son of God was of her flesh and blood. She could have never shared Him with the rest of the world and kept this goodness to herself. Consider this, though. If Mary had not given of her Son, we might never have received her Son. I am not saying that salvation would not have been possible if Mary had not said yes, but I am saying it would look drastically different.
How many times have you and I ignored the Holy Spirit? How many times have we pushed off promptings in favor of our own comfort?
This Advent season, let us pray for the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Let us pray that we would not only look like her physically, but that we would act like her spiritually. Let us embody what it means to be a humble servant of the Lord. Let us step into discomfort, trusting that the Lord will provide. Let us point every ounce of praise back to the One who is worthy of it all, and above all, let us be willing to bear Christ to a world in desperate need of Him.
Allison Dale is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying human development & family science and anthropology. She converted to the Church in September, and she finds joy in hammocking, long walks, little flowers, and pretty words. Her greatest joy, however, is being "big C" Catholic. You can find more of her words here.