A friend’s comment that she was “following the path of Mary” during Advent made me ponder just what the path of Mary could be for us this year. Three ways to follow Mary came to mind.
Finding Jesus in Rest
With all the Christmas planning, Advent isn’t known for its restfulness. Neither was it a restful on the 80-mile journey on donkey back that took Joseph and Mary, nine months pregnant, to Bethlehem that cold December. We can imagine that during the journey, Mary’s only rest came from pondering the miracle of Jesus, her savior and her Lord, snuggled silently near her heart.
We can “rest” the same way Mary did amidst the activity and uncertainty this season by turning the eyes of our heart to little Jesus, the miracle of God, always placing himself close to our heart – if we take a moment to recognize him there.
The virtue of Faith comes to our rescue here, knowing that God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves – even when our emotions are not feeling him.
Finding Jesus in the Work
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they found no room at the inn. Jesus longed to rest among His people, but was turned away. Instead of being able to collapse after the journey, Joseph and Mary set to work finding a place to stay the night. We can imagine that the anticipation of bringing forth the savior of the world, the longed-for one of Israel, made that bitter work sweeter.
When Jesus knocks on the door of our heart during Advent, will we be too busy to let him in? We can find rest, as Mary did, by keeping in mind the reason for our Christmas-prep work – to make Jesus more visible in the world that all may call him Lord.
The virtue of Hope comes in handy when we feel there is nothing but work ahead of us – hope that we will rejoice when Christmas arrives and hope for never ending rest with our savior in heaven.
Finding Jesus in the Imperfection
When He was born, Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. She and Joseph adored Him in His resting place: a manger: lowly, rude, and a little bit worm-eaten, like our hearts. Jesus longs to take his rest in our imperfect hearts.
We can rest amidst the world’s imperfection, as Mary did, working with what she had – just a manger in a stable for the King of the Universe. It was enough, because Jesus only asks us for one thing: our hearts. Can we make our hearts like the empty manger, poor as it was, awaiting Jesus’ coming? If, like Mary, we can do that, we will be able to rest in the One who longs to rest in us.
The virtue of Love lets us relax a bit, take a deep breath, and allow God to love us just as we are, right now, today. And love ourselves because of his love.
This Advent, let’s walk the path to Christmas with Mary, pondering Jesus resting near her heart despite the activity, uncertainty, and contradiction around her. May Jesus, the only one who can satisfy our longing for rest, come to feed us with his peace in the manger of our expectant hearts.