Photo: Marian archives
The Greatest Present of All
The Knights of Columbus have long had a billboard campaign reminding people to "Keep Christ in Christmas." Sadly, as obvious as this is to devout Christians, the message needs to be given to those who are tepid about their faith or who have stopped practicing it altogether.
There's a second reminder — equally obvious to engaged Catholics — that deserves mention: "Keep Mary in Christmas." Without the Blessed Mother, of course, we don't have Christmas. It would have been left to God to find another plan of redemption for humankind. Fortunately for human history, Mary responded to the Angel Gabriel's invitation to be the Mother of God with a resounding "yes."
And it was done to her according to God, through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in lowly conditions, in a stable, in poverty. God met man on equal terms, for He was like us in all ways but sin. God didn't ask a wealthy woman to be His Mother. He asked a young, poor, Jewish girl. He asked her to conceive a child through the Holy Spirit, risking her relationship with Joseph to whom she was engaged and her reputation in the community.
She said, "Yes."
And it was done to her, according to God's will.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Mary and her "yes." For God's plan of salvation to work, consent and free will were involved.
She gave her trusting consent to the Incarnation that made her the Mother of God.
By extension, she also became our heavenly mother, which was confirmed by Jesus when Our Lady stood with the Apostle John at the foot of the cross (see Jn 19:27).
As idealized as the nativity scenes might portray it, when we look into the manger on that night long ago in Bethlehem, we see animals and squalor. We can smell the stable. We can see the way this poor woman and carpenter are dressed — not in gilded robes, like a queen and her king, but humbly, in a dignified poverty that actually tells of their great internal riches, for they both found favor with God.
The mystery of Mary's fiat, her "yes," entwines itself around the mystery of the Christ Child's birth, offered and achieved entirely for our benefit through the endless love that God has for us.
Mary's consent made possible the most priceless treasure, the gift of our salvation in Christ. What Christmas present can possibly stack up against this? Salvation is the only Christmas gift anyone needs.
Thank you, Mary, for the greatest gift of all.