Be More Mary
(By Vicky Graham)
As December begins in earnest, preparations for Christmas are getting well under way. Even in these times of uncertainty when we’re not quite sure if events we have planned will actually be able to go ahead, there are still some jobs that can be done no matter what. Decorating our house for Christmas being one of them. Both Paul and I are (unapologetically) big fans of Christmas, and there are many decorations that are brought out each year to liven up our home during the festive season. When we got married in November 1998, an aunt and uncle bought us a set of red and gold Christmas baubles as a wedding present… the red and gold theme has stuck through the years, but it gets more and more diluted as other decorations are added to the tree, brought back from various holidays and trips to Christmas markets.
And then we have our nativities. I can’t recall exactly how Paul and I started our collection, but it’s grown bigger and bigger each year. I just love seeing the same simple scene of a mother, earthly father and baby (with or without extra visitors) depicted over and over again in so many different ways, different styles and using many different materials – the creativity of humans is never-ending. We always have multiple nativities on display throughout our house over the Christmas period.
But, looking through the nativities this year got me thinking. Although I can decorate my house as usual this year there are so many other things that I can’t control about our Christmas celebrations… I won’t be able to meet with my whole family this year – with six households and twenty people involved there’s absolutely no way we’d be able to fit into any Government guidelines allowing families to meet up. We’re hoping to be away for Christmas this year but, should any of us start showing Covid-19 symptoms, all our plans would have to change.
It brought to mind how Mary had to adapt her plans too, firstly after her visit from the angel informing her that life was going to change in roughly nine months’ time and then again when the census was declared and her plans for a home birth in Nazareth were well and truly scuppered. How scary and unknown would her immediate future have suddenly become? Granted, I’m sure that Joseph still had family in Bethlehem, but they were probably distant relations… I’m not sure how keen I would have been to have the option of Paul’s second-cousin-twice-removed-in-law as the only familial support available to me after I’d had my first-born son!
Mary must have been full of apprehension, fear and uncertainty in the lead-up to the very first Christmas, and we may well be feeling the same ourselves in the lead up to Christmas 2020. Fear of becoming ill and spoiling plans, apprehension for how Christmas will feel without the usual run-up of carol services and mooching around Christmas gift fairs. Uncertainty of how 2021 will unfold and whether this pandemic ever end. But I have a feeling that Mary quietly put her trust in God and faced events as they unfolded, boosted by the certainty that she was not alone in each situation. After all, she’d already faced the dismay of Joseph (and probably her parents) at becoming an unmarried mother and God had smoothed the path for her there. He’d made it clear that Mary was an important part of His plan, even though she herself may have struggled to see herself as that important. In Luke 1:46-47, she says:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant”
So, we too need to quietly put our trust in God to lead us through our current situation…after all, He’s already been doing it for months so what’s a little longer? We might, however, need to remind ourselves to trust Him. We might not feel important enough to be worthy of God’s care and attention – but we are. It won’t always be easy, but God is there to comfort and support us when we need it – and to cheer us on and equip us to do His work in our own quiet ways, much the same as He did with Mary. So, this year, I might well look upon our nativities with a slightly different perspective, be a little more like Mary and trust God with my Christmas-in-a-pandemic plans… whatever they may be.