This has been a lovely advent season for me. I am more on top of things that I have ever been, in part because I was bound and determined not to be "gift hunting." I hate that feeling of obligation. I much prefer to stumble across something that I know someone would love, and thus purchase it for that person. The last-minute "What do I get for so-and-so?!?" takes away all the joy of the season for me.
Having a little one has actually, in some respects, made it easier. Husband and I have no desire to constantly leave him with my parents at his bedtime, so we haven't felt the need to go out in the evenings to run errands as we have in the past. Our nights are spent at home, enjoying the softly lit tree and the warmth and scent of candles. Even if we're just catching up on emails or folding laundry, the peace of our home and our little family has brought the spirit of Christmas close to my heart this year.
But I digress. Tonight, thinking on the music and narrations that compose our Christmas cantata, I was struck by the reading that my mother does: the story of the angel's appearance to the shepherds. (Incidentally, Linus also does a stellar job of this passage in the Charlie Brown Christmas movie.)
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
To all people! In "The Nativity Story" movie, shortly after Jesus is born, the shepherds approach the stable. Mary is holding Him, still marveling at Him, and an old, dirty, outcast shepherd approaches her and Jesus. He reaches out and then, probably realizing that this new mother doesn't want to be bothered by strangers, backs away just a bit. But Mary holds the baby toward him, looks him straight in the eye, and says gently, "He is for all people."
For all people! Not just for the Jews (who wouldn't recognize Him anyway), but for all the Gentiles. Even those who worship another God... those who think He was just a good man or a great prophet. Even for those who think He was a fraud. Even for those who deny His very existence.
For all people! For our political leaders who take His name upon them and then sully it with a life of deceit and dishonesty. For the terrorists who purposefully murder thousands of civilians in the name of another god. For the people you hear about on the news who make you want to turn off the TV.
For all people! For those girls in high school (or at church, or in your moms group) who make everyone else feel not quite good enough. For the boss who makes you desperately want to quit your job. For the anonymous online troll slamming everything you're passionate about on your message boards. For the guy who can't seem to stay out of prison. For the addict who can't let go.
Mary couldn't have hoarded her Son if she'd tried. I imagine she wanted to cuddle him close and keep him safe forever... but that's not why He came. It's no wonder the angels were so ecstatic: what a message!
I bring you good tidings of great joy: He is for all people. He is for you.