In our Gospel reading today we have the account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:26-38
The Angel Gabriel announced that she would conceive and bear a son while she was still a virgin and that her son would be the Messiah, Jesus, who would save His people from their sins. Mary would carry the Gift of Christmas within herself for our salvation, not only for our salvation, but for her salvation.
I was thinking that I often pass over that reality because Mary is such an integral part of the Christmas story that I tend to forget that the birth of Jesus was for her salvation as well so that she could know God’s love through Jesus. Gabriel’s announcement of salvation for the world was done both for her and would be accomplished through her.
To carry the Gift of Christmas could not have been an easy task for Mary. She was a mom; being a mom is not easy in and of itself. She would have other children later with her husband, Joseph. There were hardships normal for the time she lived in and, at the very, very worst of times, she saw her own son beaten and crucified.
But carrying the Gift of Christmas was also a joy for Mary to bear. Especially in his ministry, as she really saw what it meant for Jesus to be the savior of the world and to be her savior. To have faith in Jesus grow in her own heart and life and to share that faith with her family and children, like James, the half-brother of Jesus, who would write the epistle of James, lead the Jerusalem church through persecution, and be martyred for his faith in Jesus. Mary’s faith in Jesus would carry her through the hardships normal for life and, at the very, very best of times, she would see her own son resurrected from the dead and ascend into Heaven.
What an amazing life Mary lived. Throughout it all God was able and faithful to strengthen Mary to live out the life she was called to live. To carry the Gift of Christmas so that salvation might be given both for her and through her.
In your baptism it was announced that you are now in God’s family and have received salvation through the gift of the Holy Spirit living within you and the promise of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through the hearing of God’s Word, faith has worked within your heart and life. At the point of your salvation, you were called to carry the Gift of Christmas in your life and this is done both for you and is also accomplished through you as well.
Just like Mary, you and me as God’s children are called to carry the Gift of Christmas in our lives. This is done for us so that we might know God’s love through Jesus and be saved. Unlike Mary, I think we are more familiar with that part. But God’s story of salvation is also accomplished through us. We carry Jesus wherever and to whomever we go. The hope of Jesus’ salvation is shared through our words when we tell others about Jesus and the hope that we have. It is shared when we live lives filled with hope and forgiveness. It is shared when we fall and don’t live as we are called to, but we run back to Jesus for forgiveness and love and we show others through our failings what it means to be forgiven and unconditionally loved.
To carry the Gift of Christmas in our lives is not always easy. We are constantly threatened by sin, death, and the devil, by temptations and hurt all around. To live the life we are called to live, both in our righteous actions, and to come to Jesus in our brokenness is not easy. Some days it is easier to say to that mountain, move over there, then it is to say, I forgive you, or I love you. But God is able and faithful to strengthen you to live out the life you have been called to live.
But carrying the Gift of Christmas in our lives is also a joy to bear that is unlike any other joy. You and I have been given the best Christmas gift there can ever be–the gift of salvation, eternal life, and a hope that carries us through all that life here and now brings. It is the only message that can save a human life and give a hope that never dies. To share this message is a joy as well because it is the best gift we can ever give to the people we love in our lives.
In Jesus, what an amazing life we have been given to live, with our sister in Christ, Mary. Just as God was faithful and able to strengthen Mary to live out the life she was called to live, our God is faithful and able to strengthen you and me to live out the lives we have been called to live. To carry the Gift of Christmas so that salvation might be given both for us and through us this Christmas, and all year long.