This year I wanted to do something for Advent with the kids. I bought a nativity and each night after dinner we light the candles around it. We tell Jude (and Gideon, though he's a little too young still) the story of Jesus' birth, and let her ask questions. And then we sing some Christmas carols while Josh accompanies on the piano. Jude loves this part of the day.
Both of the kids are fascinated by the Baby Jesus. Jude will climb up and play with him several times a day, and she loves to just hold him and look at his face. If left to his own devices little Gideon would do the same, only with more banging (just to test the substance of it, you understand). But when I asked Jude which was her favorite, she looked lovingly at the little Holy Family and said without hesitation, "Mary."
I've been thinking a lot about Mary these days. Though I do not know all the reasons why she has captured the devotion of believers for centuries, I can say that I'm beginning to understand something about her: she is me. Us.
We are in the same position as she--laboring in faith to bring forth something new. The Spirit is bringing forth a new creation within me, and I am His instrument--the instrument of God.
Like Mary, we do not know the path that lies before us. Like Mary we know we are not equal to the task. We can only respond to God's desire for us to die with an obedient heart, a surrendered and willing spirit that says, "Let it be unto me according to your will."
It is in our nature to want to understand, to know. All the way back in Eden they ate of the fruit for the sake of attaining knowledge. As creatures we desire to be in the role of creator. And yet that is not our place--our role has always been as vessel.
Like Mary, we are to be a vessel of God. Emmanuel--God with us. God in us. We are the vessel, and HE brings forth a new creation. And it is ourselves.
So often I want a blueprint. I want a map so I can double-check the directions, conceptualize the journey, and get my hands on some concrete details. Yet here, in the very center of my soul, I encounter mystery. The core of my faith, the crux of my relationship with God is the sacred mystery of God within me, of His Spirit shaping and molding me into a new creation. Like Mary, I am a vessel.
This Advent season I am meditating on this mystery. I am praying for patience, for surrender. I am lifting a grateful heart to God, thanking Him for his gifts and His grace, grateful for His love which sent His beloved Son, and then His Spirit--so much! This love asks me to be an obedient vessel, and I am grateful for this mystery which affirms my life--hidden with Christ in God.