All I Want . . .
Text: Luke 1:26-38
Long before we lit the first Advent candle, I was asked, “So, Gary, what do you want for Christmas?” I resisted my initial Grinchian response, “I want to be left alone long enough to enjoy the season of Advent.” Instead, I gave the even more infuriating response, “Nothing really. I have everything I want or need” – a response that was neither helpful nor true.
It is not that I do not know what I want for Christmas on this last morning of the Advent season. I do, but what I want can’t be ordered on Amazon Prime or purchased in some shop and wrapped in paper with little Santas. What I want comes with no price tag attached, is never on sale for Black Friday, and seems as impossible to achieve as touching a star.
Well, enough of what I want – for now.
Have you ever wondered what was on Mary’s “want list”? Maybe a beautiful wedding in the Temple? A romantic honeymoon in Galilee with Joseph? A moonlight cruise down the Jordan?
As I read the words from the angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke’s Gospel today, it finally dawned on me. Without asking any of us what is on our “want list,” God has given us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive. Think about the Advent-Christmas story again. Jesus is born, not to elderly parents like Sarah and Abraham, but to a young woman recently engaged. Jesus is born to a woman who never had “giving birth in my teens” on her “want list.”
The Advent surprise of Mary’s story is that God knows far more than what we most want. God knows what we most need. The point of Mary’s story is that ours is a God who searches for us and finds us, a God who comes to us and wraps truth around our scattered minds, forgiveness around our most reprehensible sin, mercy around our well-deserved guilt, peace around our absolute infatuation with violence, life around our love affair with death. The point of Mary’s story is that what you and I need most is a God who searches for us and does not stop until we are found.
After hearing what gift God is giving, Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen as you have said.” At this point in the story, I can’t help but envy Mary. I definitely do not envy the discomfort of pregnancy and the excruciating pain of childbirth, but I do envy her clear confidence in the presence of God in her life.
It is Mary’s story that has a lot to do with what I really want for Christmas. My apologies if my list is a bit long, but here goes:
I want every person on earth to be given a new set of ears, special ears, ears that enable us not only to hear but to understand and understand fully. These new ears would help married partners and parents and children to hear and understand each other no matter what the conflict. They would help Israelis and Palestinians, Ukrainians and Russians, to hear and understand each other beyond the stir of drones and bombs and devastating rhetoric.
I also want every person on earth to be given a new set of arms, arms with incredible reach. These arms would embrace children who are left orphaned by war or drugs or neglect. They would embrace even wanna-be despots until they learned a passion for justice. They would reach deep within our pockets until we gave with the self-sacrificing glee of our self-giving God.
I can’t help also wanting a new pair of feet for Christmas, feet that are not so set on walking only in the directions I always walk. These feet would lead me to walk into new neighborhoods I never visit and toward new people I have been taught to avoid. These feet would not be sore from running in pursuit of stuff that has no staying power and does not satisfy. These feet would be sore more often than not from walking in the way of the one born in a Bethlehem barn.
At the risk of asking for too much, I also want every person on earth to be given a new mouth. This new mouth would be filled with gratitude and appreciation for God’s love that seeks us out and will not let us go. This mouth would have an automatic cut-off valve when destructive words were about to slip out. This mouth would be quick to affirm and express thanks and slow to cut down and tear down. It would speak with conviction, honesty, and integrity.
Well, on this last morning of Advent and on the eve of Christmas, that is my Christmas list. I can already hear the response:
“No way, Gary. Not happening. Never gonna be that way.”
Mary could have responded the same way to Gabriel’s news. She could have laughed and scoffed at him, insisting that Gabriel had breathed in too much angel dust. Instead, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me just as you said.”
What do I want for Christmas? I want Mary’s faith that with God all things are possible. For as Mary would have us know: They are.
That is what I want for Christmas and that is what I pray God will give us all for Christmas.
What a gift that would be. O, my, what a gift indeed!
Merry Christmas, my friends!