By Fr. Erik Esparza
There is only one other person that epitomizes the meaning of Advent, Christmas and the New Year besides Jesus himself. Her name is Mary, the mother of Jesus! Mary was truly there from the beginning.
Mary uttered the words that changed the course of history: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). It was from that moment that the earthly life of Jesus began in the very womb of Mary. Mary indeed lived the first Advent season with joyful anticipation leading to the birth of Jesus. The beauty that surrounds the glory of Christmas can at times fail to honor the tremendous challenges that Mary would have faced during her nine months of pregnancy and soon after the birth of Jesus.
After the Angel Gabriel departed from Mary it was then that the journey truly began. Can you imagine what Mary must of thought to herself? There is only one thing that comes to my mind. Mary must have thought “now what?” You see Mary was a very young woman now found with child not belonging to Joseph with whom she was betrothed. Joseph being a righteous man didn’t want Mary to undergo any shame so he decided to divorce her quietly. It wasn’t until an angel spoke to Joseph in a dream that Mary would be invited into his home. Of course, the struggle didn’t end there. After overcoming the earlier challenges Mary would then face another difficulty when it came time for the delivery. By not finding any room at the inn, Mary had no choice but to deliver her baby boy near a manger most likely amongst the animals and the smells. Mary would take her new born son, the King of Kings, and lay him in that manger. Mary endured this situation with such grace, celebrating the birth of her son. It wasn’t too much later after the birth that Mary would have to be on the move again. This time Mary needed to leave in the shadows of the night to Egypt to save her little boy. King Herod threatened to kill any male child under the age of two in a desperate attempt to find the newborn King. Although Mary was able to protect Jesus from slaughter, unfortunately, the baby boys known as the Holy Innocents, did not survive the attack by Herod. One could only imagine the fear, the sadness, and the struggle it was for Mary to endure those weeks and months. Despite it all Mary trusted in God. She would come to know and believe that the very presence of peace, joy and love was always there to shine through it all. The very gift of God, Jesus, was there in her midst.
Jesus is that same gift offered to you in the challenging, difficult, and unexpected moments of your life. You are never alone. Jesus is always there to offer you his very peace, joy and love to keep you moving forward. Mary embarked on a journey with God and you are invited to do the same. Like Mary you will not have all the answers to your daily questions nor will you be spared from life’s struggles and pains. However, like Mary, in and through it all you will be called to trust. There is a song by Lauren Daigle that speaks so powerfully about trust. The song entitled, “Trust in You,” says it all: “When You don’t move the mountains; I’m needing You to move; When You don’t part the waters; I wish I could walk through; When You don’t give the answers; As I cry out to You; I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You.” I pray that you will trust like Mary trusted. May the New Year to come be filled with new blessings and opportunities as you call upon God and trust in Jesus.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.