This post is dedicated to my friend Ardy Roberto and his wife Ting.
Lately the Philippines has been in the news because of its flourishing economy. A few days ago it was featured yet again, this time for the way it celebrates Christmas.
Among the things mentioned were the length of festivities (four months), traditional early morning mass, lights and décor and of course the scores of parties leading to the Noche Buena (basically a midnight party). Yet in the midst of all the celebrations of our Christmas culture, I offer this blog to focus us to the real meaning of this awesome celebration.
It’s about an invitation
The story of Christmas begins with a messenger sent from heaven to invite Mary into a journey and a mission from God to send His Son to save the world. The first invite was directed towards a young, poor, uneducated woman from a no-nothing town called Nazareth.
And yet the first words of the angel was “Greetings, you are highly favored.” Its amazing how God’s favor is given to one whom we in our world would never invite to a party. And yet God deems worthy of the invite. But the real essence of the invitation was “God is with you.” Christmas is at the end of the day an invitation to a relationship with God.
An impossible situation
But Christmas is also about an impossible situation. Mary’s invite was about bearing the very Son of God. Something that was physically impossible, mentally insane, emotionally draining and socially devastating. Often the way you can tell if you have been invited by God is when you find yourself in an impossible situation that is not of your doing. This is true of His invitation to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David et al.
When Mary said yes to the invite what transpired was a series of impossible situations. Socially she lost all her friends as they wondered her insistence that the Holy Spirit got her pregnant. Then she became a fugitive on the run, her baby was on the wanted list of the authorities. Then it was on to natural childbirth in a stable with no other witnesses but animals. I know they have no souls but they seem to be important to God, He wanted them to be His first witnesses along with Mary and Joseph. Somehow there’s hope that Vito (our dog) might make it to heaven. Jesus does have a white horse tucked in a stable somewhere in heaven.
But Mary’s impossible situation did not end there. Imagine being entrusted with the raising of God’s own Son. The stress and the worry that there are people still out there that are looking for her child. And finally seeing Him crucified and die. It must have been confusing at the very least. Is this what you mean by highly favored? Is this what it means when You say God is with you?
I used to wonder how Mary could have survived her ordeal. It started when she was a teenager and ended when she was a mature woman with adult children. The thought that the Bible was silent about Joseph after Jesus appeared in ministry makes you think she may have been a widow and a single parent.
So what made it possible for her to survive all this? Exactly what the messenger told her.
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
All that time the Holy Spirit was uniquely infused in her. And the power of God allowed her to go through the impossible and yet with great joy (Rom. 14:10, 1Thess. 1:6). The Holy Spirit guided her into all the truth bearing witness that all this was from God (John 16:13). Through all that’s happened the Holy Spirit led her and enabled her. Amazing.
But the story does not end there.
After Jesus had died and resurrected the disciples found themselves huddled in the upper room. There the Bible singles out the names of each of the disciples who were present. Rightfully so, this was the beginning of the infant church and the list of its key players.
Then it mentions that there were women among them but singles out but one by name: Mary the mother of Jesus (Acts 1:14). Most significant was this was also the first time everyone would experience the infusion of the Holy Spirit. What a moment that would have been for Mary. Through the years although encouraged, strengthened, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, she always had the question, why?
At that moment her question was answered. So that others may experience the same experience she has had all these years and the greeting that says, “you are highly favored and God wants to have a relationship with you, yes you.” As our country celebrates the season I pray that we invite others to the real meaning of Christmas. To Him be all the glory!