Every year we’re invited to enter the mystery of Christmas. Of course we can refuse to welcome this mystery of God.
That’s what Ahab, king of Israel, did, according to last Saturday’s first reading for Mass. He refused to engage with God. “Come, ask for a sign, Let me open the mysteries of life to you,” God said to him. But Ahab, the busy, proud. self-aborbed man, said “No.” –as politely as he could– “I will not tempt the Lord.” In other words, “Don’t bother me.”
God would send a sign anyway.
This is the time to open our minds and hearts to the mysteries of God and if we do we’ll be blessed.
The other day a woman was telling me about her little girl, Isabel. She’s in the first grade in a little Catholic school down the street from us and they’re into the Christmas story these days..
“She can’t wait to go to school these days, ” her mother said. They’re putting together a creche for the Baby Jesus and they’re learning all about the angels, and the wise men who come to the stable on camels, and Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the wicked king who want to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. They’re offering little prayers that the whole world be blessed when he comes.
Isabel is enthralled by it all. “Mommy, did you know Jesus had to sleep on straw. That straw we put in the crib would hurt him when he slept on it.”
Isabel was asking what she was going to get for Christmas, and her mother told her that before we open our hand to get anything we have to open it to give something.
So Isabel is asking now for enough money to buy presents for everyone in the world. She’s going to have to see the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for a bailout like that, her mother says.
Why do we lose that childlike wonder and ability to be engaged? Why do we become like Ahab, not wanting to be bothered about this great sign?
Every once in awhile we’re spurred by something we hear. I heard it in Isabel. I heard it too in St. Bernard’s beautiful sermon on Luke’s gospel of the annunciation, when the angel invites Mary of Nazareth to conceive the Child. Here’s a summary of it:
“You hear, Mary, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you hear it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel waits for your answer; it’s time he returns to God who sent him. We wait for your answer too.
Salvation will be ours if you consent. In the eternal Word, we all came to be made. At your answer we can be remade and brought to life.
Adam with his sorrowing family exiled from Paradise begs you to respond.
Abraham and David asks to agree. The patriarchs and all our ancestors look for your answer. All the earth waits to hear.
Answer quickly, O Mary, quickly answer the angel and through him the Lord. Say the word and receive the Word of God; say your word, and receive God’s Word. Speak a passing word, and embrace the eternal Word.
Don’t delay or be afraid. Open your heart to faith, your mouth to praise and your womb to the Creator. The desired of the nations is at the door knocking. Open to him.
And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.”