Daily Reading for December 20 • The Fourth Sunday of Advent

At the heart of this momentous event, the child Mary is singing a song about a child. An exceptional young girl, chosen to be the Mother of this child Messiah, she is called in tradition Theotokos, the God-bearer. The song she sings about a child has never stopped echoing down through the ages in Christendom. However, more than just being a song of a child about a child, this song is a call to each of us who desire to be followers of Christ, leading us toward becoming more childlike in our responses and relationship with our Creator. Out of the depth of her joy, Mary sings of the crucial qualities of childlikeness that the Christ Child, when he became an adult, urged his followers to embrace.

Martin Luther, the fifteenth-century reformer, once said, “There are three miracles of the Nativity. That God became man, that a virgin conceived, and that Mary believed. And the greatest of these was the last.” Mary is a supremely great figure, unrivaled in importance within historic Christianity. And it is proper to hold her in very high esteem, for in this young Middle Eastern girl there was great faith. At the same time, we diminish her greatness if we put her on too high a pedestal. She was just a young girl from an ordinary little town from the back of beyond; yet she believed it all.

Children have the fathomless ability to believe anything; it is one of their most beautiful traits. They haven’t made up their minds yet about what is and what is not possible. Children have few fixed preconceptions about reality. If someone tells a child that under a particular bush is a magic place, they will search for it when no one is looking.

As children we lived in a summery green world where everything was possible, where in the end the villain or wicked witch was always slain and the princess rescued from her tower. Like a child, Mary quietly and simply believed. She didn’t fully understand the angel’s message, but she understood who God was, and she remembered the last thing the angel Gabriel said to her: “For nothing is impossible with God.” Her “yes” turned the course of history.

From Songs in Waiting: Spiritual Reflections on the Middle Eastern Songs Surrounding Christ’s Birth by Paul-Gordon Chandler. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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