Mary: The Busiest Christmas Ever
It’s one of those years. My neighbor had his Christmas decorations up by mid-November, which I say is unfair. Christmastime is busy enough with events, shopping, and travel. Now I have my neighbor’s twinkling lights to remind me that there’s home decorating also, and I was late before it was even time to start.
So it’s tempting to rant about the busyness of Christmas. Popular wisdom says slowing down is the key to a worshipful holiday. But the Bible doesn’t allow such an easy answer to Christmas stress. Just look at the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
If anyone had a stressful Christmas season, it was Mary. It started with the angel Gabriel telling her she’d be the mother of the promised Savior. Before the baby was born, Mary traveled to visit her cousin Elizabeth, back to Nazareth, and then on to Bethlehem. She nearly had her engagement called off. She even had tax registration come due.
Amid all this, Luke’s Gospel keeps showing us the inner life of Mary. At these moments we get pictures of contemplation and worship. We get the sort of thing we associate with the true meaning of Christmas.
- At Elizabeth’s house, Mary recited a song of praise. “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 1:46-47)
- After the shepherds visited baby Jesus, “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Luke 2:19).
- Then again at the end of Jesus’ childhood, “his mother stored all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
So how did that happen? How did Mary find praise and meditation amid Christmas busyness?
The source of Mary’s worship
You may think this came naturally for Mary. Christmas-story movies tend to portray her as the serene type. But two later incidents in her life suggest she actually had somewhat of a busybody personality. At a wedding in Cana, Mary pestered Jesus to work a miracle when the hosts ran out of wine (see John 2:1-10). And when Jesus’ ministry started to look radical, she and her other sons tried to intervene (see Mark 3:31-35). Jesus was firm with her on both occasions.
To see why the time of Jesus’ birth was different, let’s go back to Gabriel’s announcement. He’d brought a similar message earlier to the priest Zechariah, whom he ended up scolding for not believing God, “who sent me to bring you this good news!” (Luke 1:19) It’s all about believing the Good News.
What God did that first Christmas was thrilling to the point of disbelief. But when the message came to Mary, she did believe. Gabriel said her child would be the Son of the Most High, conceived by the Holy Spirit, a king forever, bearing a savior’s name. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). God knocked her socks off with his Good News and she believed it! Once that happened, she couldn’t help but worship.
My path to worship
It’s fine to slow down for Christmas and seek God. But we must not think that we conjure up wonder from within ourselves or worship with yoga-like focus. Rather, God plows through the busyness and plasters us with the amazing Good News of his Son become a baby. When we really believe it—the way Mary did—we can’t help but stop to worship and reflect, no matter how stressed we are.
Reminders of Jesus fly at us from every direction this time of year. I need to let some of them hit me. Maybe in the kindness of a particular gift, or in the words of a familiar carol, or even in the sparkle of my neighbor’s lights, my Christmas wish is that God will show me his Son in new and delightful ways. Worship will surely follow.