This has been a tumultuous year.
From COVID-19, to the George Floyd and Brianna Taylor murders, to the most insane election season in American political history, to the normal challenges associated with life, 2020 has been unlike any other.
Yet, we still find ourselves with a reason to celebrate. It’s Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year!
The year is filled with special days including birthdays, anniversaries and holidays like Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. On these days, we greet one another using the word “happy.”
We wish each other a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Happy Birthday.” Have you ever noticed that we rarely say, “Happy Christmas?” In fact, it almost sounds ridiculous. We don’t say, “Happy Christmas;” we say, “Merry Christmas.”
Merry indicates joy, cheerfulness and pure festivity. It is not bound by the cares and challenges of the world.
Rather, to be merry is to choose to be free to celebrate with enthusiasm and high spirits. So, Christmas is a festive time to enjoy with one another.
What if I suggested that instead of having a “Merry Christmas,” we should have a “Mary Christmas?”
Would you reject that idea? Does it sound strange to you? I think it is something to consider.
In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary. He spoke these words to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
This unanticipated encounter and these seemingly inappropriate words shocked her, considering her social standing.
However, Gabriel told her that she has found favor with God, will conceive a son, and she is to call his name Jesus. God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever.
These were powerful words, and they had a significant impact on Mary. Soon after this encounter, we see what scholars call Mary’s Song of Praise, or the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-55. This song expresses her joy and praise to God for choosing her to carry the Messiah.
The joy Mary expresses is based upon a recognition of who she is and where she comes from. Mary is not a rich individual. In fact, she comes from humble beginnings and has an insignificant background.
Her life was laid out for her. She would never be rich and prosperous. Rather, she was a lower-class citizen.
So, her song of praise does not come from a place of privilege. It comes from a pure heart that is honored God chose her. She is still amazed that God would grant someone like her the opportunity to give birth to the world’s savior.
It’s not just a merry time for her. Yes, she is cheerful. Yes, she is joyful. However, there is more to it than that.
Having a “Mary” Christmas is not just a merry season. It is a time for us to recognize how insignificant we are.
It is a time for us to have a lowly heart and mind, to appreciate the fact that despite our shortcomings, Emmanuel is still with us.
It is a time to be grateful that we are here even during one of the most chaotic times in America’s history. We are here.
God has chosen to bless us, and we are very “Mary.” We are rich in ways that are beyond money. The Savior of the world is here, and we are hopeful.
And if God can bless Mary, God can bless all of us that face the real challenges of poverty, racism, mental illness and injustice.
The message is that our faith is one that seeks to give all a “Mary Christmas.”
Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly series for Advent 2020. One article will be published each week for the four Sundays of Advent, with a final article published on Christmas week. The previous articles in the series are:
Bringing Your Crumpled Hope to Advent | Merianna Harrelson
When Righteousness and Peace Kiss | Richard Wilson
Joy and Justice: Two Sides of Same Coin | Brittany Graves
Senior pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Burlington, New Jersey. Jones serves on the Good Faith Media governing board. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Divinity from the Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center, and a Doctor of Ministry from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.