You will be Called to Your Unexpected Bethlehem

We’re nearing the end of the Advent days of waiting. Soon it will be Christmas Eve. A busy night. Christmas trees and gifts and Christmas Eve dinners. Christmas family traditions, decorating, preparation for Christmas Day cooking. Christmas cookies, and wrapped Christmas gifts. Excited children trying to sleep so Santa can bring presents to good boys and girls….

Advent has been a busy December month of preparation for Christmas. On the road yesterday, I offered praise for the love that has warmed each choice, each gift, each effort, each sacrifice, each desire to bring happiness in the hearts of holiday shoppers and Christmas family planners.

All these years as we each turn the pages of the calendar Christmas after Christmas, our busyness makes us think that Christmas is something we bring about, something we produce, something we give each other, something we do for others or for God.

The ways of God, however, are always an unexpected reversal. We take our cue from this morning’s Gospel. Mary could have helped her cousin Elizabeth with the attitude that she was giving something, providing much needed assistance, bestowing kindness on her elderly cousin. She was giving the gift. Instead, as she proclaimed in her song of praise the Magnificat, Mary knew that it was the Lord, who was the Giver of all gifts, who had done great things in her. In awe at the unfolding mystery of God’s gift, Mary put herself at the service of all God had planned. A humble joy at being a part of something so magnificent: the birth of John the Baptist to her elderly cousin who had been barren, a birth announced by an angel to her husband Zechariah, a birth of a boy that would run before the Dawn and herald the coming of the Messiah…her Child.

This is Mary’s way of putting herself at God’s disposition. Even when it came time to give birth to her own Child who would sit on the Throne of David forever, she makes no attempt to orchestrate the perfect situation for his birth. She has no pretense of greatness for having said yes to the angel Gabriel and having given her body and soul as the home of God’s Son for nine months. She is waiting, watching, listening, serving, letting him lead. She lets Jesus give the gift.

Marian eyes. Have her eyes in these days as Advent melts into Christmas joy. Eyes that look to see what Jesus is accomplishing right in front of you. Eyes that transmit faith. Eyes that offer love and understanding. Eyes that can still experience wonder at the mystery of the birth of God in our midst, saving us.

Mary left behind her planned preparation for the birth of her baby, for the uncomfortable and probably dangerous trip to Bethlehem, trusting that God had a plan. She says to me, don’t hold too tightly onto your preparations and expectations. You will be called to your unexpected Bethlehem, and it is there that you will receive the gift of Jesus.

Rest from all the work you’ve done now. Christmas is here and it will be what it will be. Let Jesus in and see what he will do within you and through you.

My heart cries out with Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog: