Another day, another tremendous sign from God. What if one doesn’t want a sign? What if I avoid the openness that leads to experiencing a sign, because I do not like the implications for my own life? Such was the case with Ahaz in the first reading. At first , it may seem that Ahaz is being especially devotional. He will not test God by demanding a sign. But understanding the situation more completely, we realize Ahaz does not want the sign, because it will represent the need for Ahaz to make different choices in his own life.
Have you had the experience of being afraid to pray that you might know and do God’s will? Are there times when you consider that the will of the Father of Jesus was to let his Son die on the Cross? Every time we pray the Our Father, we pray that God’s will be done. But if you’re like me there are too many times when the only criteria in discerning the will of God is really about discerning my own will.
Mary could have given into such a temptation in today’s gospel. She is asked to bear God’s son, even though she will not have intercourse. She is asked to say yes to God, without fully understanding the implications of her answer. She is asked to become the earthly tabernacle that holds Jesus, without realizing the cost of this in her life.
But not surprisingly, she does not understand how this could even be possible. She certainly cannot know all of the hardship that will come into her life because of her ultimate yes to God. There is a reason that one of the titles of Mary is Our Lady of Sorrows. Her life was hard, and she spent much of her life trying to understand the son of hers. But in the end Mary gives a complete and total answer to God: yes.
One way of looking at Advent is to examine the characters of Advent. We see those individuals who are outstanding role models, and another set remind us that life is not always as clean as it appears. We do not have a God that does not respect our freedom. This ultimate respect for human freedom is what makes Mary’s answer to the question of the Angel all that more remarkable. She could have said no. But she did not.
The commemoration of the birth of Jesus is not simply about characters on stage. It is a powerful reminder to you and to me that Jesus came for a specific purpose. Jesus came to save us. The great incarnation of Jesus, that great act where God comes one with us, the incarnation we begin to realize in a way beyond even our wildest imaginings just how much God loves us.