Have you sat in silence with Mary and gazed at the manger? Just sitting and pondering the mystery, whether your manger scene at home or at church. After telling us the story of Jesus’ birth, Luke says, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Another translation says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
This is a clue to how we should respond to the Christmas mystery. It is a treasure to be pondered. Take a few minutes to reflect on these things with Mary. Jesus’ birth changed her life completely. As the mother of God’s Son, Mary is the Mother of God. That title was given to her in the year 431. At a council of the bishops at Ephesus (in modern day Turkey) they declared that Jesus was “true God and true man” from his conception in Mary’s womb. That truth was declared by calling Mary, the Mother of God. The Greek title Theotokos means she carried God in her womb. Imagine what that was like for her.
Paul reflects on this mystery and takes it one step further. “God sent his Son, born of a woman . . . that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) This Paul’s favorite way of describing the effect of our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. We are adopted by God as his sons and daughters. At that time, adoption had permanent consequences. The adopted son became a true son of his adopting father. Therefore:
- The adopted son could never be rejected.
- The natural parents could not reclaim the adopted son.
- Adoption included the rights of inheritance.
Through Jesus we have received “adoption as sons [and daughters]” so we can never be rejected by God. Once our parents bring us for baptism, we belong to God. Our natural parents cannot take us back. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. And, we are heirs to all of God’s gifts.
Mary cooperated with God’s grace and became the Mother of God. If we cooperate with the grace of baptism, we will be transformed into God’s own children. We will act like Jesus. We will be his presence.
Our adoption is real. The question is whether we will live it. How about a New Year’s resolution to live your adoption as a son or daughter of God? What would that look like? Paul said, “As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba,’ Father!” (Gal. 4:6) Anthony de Mello said it this way. Through baptism we are blessed with the relationship that Jesus had with the Father. We have the right to speak to God face-to-face. “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’”
When you pray, do you pray with confidence of little children who speak to their mom or dad? Are you in tune with the Spirit? Do you ask for the Spirit to guide your actions? As you look back over your life, do you see a growing awareness of how the Holy Spirit has guided you? Is your relationship with the Holy Spirit deepening with each passing day?
Then Paul says, “if you are a son [or daughter], then you are also an heir.” (Gal. 4:7) Adoption leads to the right of inheritance. You have received the Father’s gifts, just like his Son Jesus was blessed with every good gift: prayer filled with trust; grace to overcome any sin that plagues your heart; healing power to soothe your wounds and restore your weary spirit; and forgiveness to be merciful like the Father.
The Christmas mystery made Mary into the Mother of God. It makes us adopted sons and daughters of God. Sit by the manger scene, ponder this great mystery, and make New Year’s resolutions to help you mature as son or daughter of God. I suggest three resolutions:
- for your relationship w/God
- for your relationship w/family or friends
- for school or work
Will you wander into the New Year with a sense of doing the same ole, same ole? Or will you resolve to do live intentionally as God’s beloved child? More hopeful and at peace, with a clearer sense of who you are and whose you are. More humble and grateful, walking serenely inside of God’s relentless mercy.
Make a commitment to prayer which reflects the reality of your adoption as a son or daughter of God. Make a resolution to treat family members in a way that reflects Christ’s love. Live your adoption well.