Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my savior!”
With these words, Mary begins what is perhaps the most famous hymn of praise to God in Christian history and yet I want to know…why? Why is Mary so happy? Why is Mary rejoicing? Remember, this is coming after the Annunciation by the angel Gabriel which basically upends Mary’s life. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” She had been planning on a normal marriage and starting a family and those hopes have now vanished. Whatever dreams Mary had for her life died when the angel appeared. Surely she must want to mourn the loss of her previous dreams, yet we find Mary rejoicing in the new dream of bearing the Son of God.
It precisely in this tension that many of us shall find ourselves as we prepare for another Christmas. We have losses to mourn. Friends and family members have died. Friends have married and moved on with their lives without us. Children have moved out of the house. Romantic relationships have ended. New jobs take us away from old friends and comfortable places. Dreams once hoped for have died. Yet in the midst of this mourning and sorrow, like Mary, we have cause for hope and rejoicing.
Christmas is a reminder that no matter how the Herod’s of the world may scheme, God has prevailed in the birth of Emmanuel “God with us.” Christmas is a reminder that God “has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.” Christmas is a reminder that each one of us is willed and wanted and loved. Unfortunately, we are not likely to have an angel appear and announce to us a new dream, but we know that “all things work for good for those who love God.” Perhaps we can rejoice as we continue to experience sorrow. Perhaps we can hope as we continue to mourn. Perhaps we laugh in the midst of our tears. Perhaps, like Mary, we can maintain our faith, dream of a new heaven and a new earth, and fill the hungry with good things.
Fr. Patrick A. Tobin, Associate Chaplain, Office for Campus Ministry