Luke 1:26-33 (NRSV)
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
A 2016 survey of 3,000 people by one of the UK’s largest on-line gift giving companies suggests that “Christmas is the sixth most stressful life event.” Yes, Christmas ranks right up there with divorce, moving, and changing jobs. Most of us don’t need a survey to tell us how stressful the holidays are. There are so many unknowns when you think about it:
Do I have enough money to cover gifts and food?
How much will I owe on my credit cards when it is all over?
How will I manage to see all of my family members?
How will I cope during this holiday season without my loved one who recently died?
What am I going to do with the children for the two weeks while they are out of school?
You can add your own stress maker to the list. Maybe this is a terrible confession for a pastor to make but 1 or 2 times during the holidays I relish the thought of calling off Christmas. Like so many I find Christmas stressful for all the reasons listed above and more. Sometimes I think that if the Grinch himself came knocking at my door we would somehow be best friends.
My stress comes from other places too. Yes, I think Christmas has become too commercialized. We’ve secularized a very important God moment in history. The lights, the buying, the selling, and the partying overshadow the birth of God’s Son. I find that stressful, disappointing, and sad.
Yes, sometimes I would just as soon call the whole thing off. Unbelievably, over 2,000 years ago, God gave a young girl that option. The girl knew nothing of Santa Claus or the gift-giving frenzy of our modern, commercialized Christmas. Hers was a simple life of trying to survive from one day to the next. Suddenly, this 13-15 year old was confronted by God’s angel and told that she would bear God’s Son. She would have to decide, “Yes” or “No.”
“How can this be? Mary asked. There were certainly other questions on her mind:
Will Joseph stick around when he discovers that I’ve become pregnant out of wedlock?
More importantly, what will Joseph say when he discovers it is not his child?
What will my parents think?
Will I be abandoned?
Will they drag me into town and stone me to death for sleeping around?
Will there be someone there to help when my time comes?
The child is supposed to be King of Israel. What will happen to me?
Will I survive the birth?
When you think about it, there are a lot of unknowns for Mary. She could easily say “No.” But she says, “Yes!” She says yes in spite of the mystery of it all. Mary believes in the promise of God even though the promise will, “Pierce her heart,” as foretold by the old priest Simeon. Like Mary, we have to believe that in spite of the unknown, the fear, our pain, and our hurt that God is there. We have to believe God is there in the unknown places of our lives. Think about it.