Unwrapping Christmas: Invest and Invite
Today is the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent. During this Advent season we have focused on giving.
God has given us so much.
At Christmas we celebrate that God gave us his very Son. Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, so that we might have life in him.
Because God is love, it is His nature to give. And really and truly we want to be givers, too. Think about the pleasure you receive when you give someone a gift, especially if it’s something they need or desired.
We looked at giving the gift of presence to people and to God. Your presence matters because it shows what and who are important to you.
We talked about giving in our community, and that as a church family, Saint Mary is called to be givers not only here at church but in our city, as well.
Last week we asked you to choose joy for this season by beginning in prayer every day for 5-6 minutes; thanking God for the good things in life; by enjoying the people in your life, especially by spending time with them; and lastly, during the hectic days to come to not take yourself too seriously – laugh at yourself – to not allow yourself to be anxious or upset, but to slow down.
This last week, we are looking at the gift of invitation. Our Gospel for today is about the invitation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. It’s probably a familiar story to most of us here, but it may not be to you.
Luke introduces Mary as a young girl, probably between 14 to 15 years old who is engaged to a man named Joseph.
Gabriel reveals that God intends to send the long awaited Messiah into the world and that God has chosen Mary to be his mother. The Archangel Gabriel invited Mary into this plan. It was an invitation to something amazing. God had been working in Mary’s life up to this point preparing her. Mary had been preparing for this very moment, as well, only she didn’t know what the moment would be, what she would be asked to do.
Would she say yes or no? Even though God can do what He wants, He chooses not to without Mary’s consent. He waited for her to say yes or no. He asked the question and put the response in her hands.
This question may seem like it comes out of nowhere, but Mary had been raised a good Jewish girl. She was taught from early in her life that God would send a Messiah to save humanity.
Mary spent time with God in prayer, in the Scriptures as she was taught, and through her participation in the Jewish faith. God had developed a relationship with Mary already. Mary knew God because she had spent time with Him.
So was Mary surprised God chose her to bear Jesus? Most likely, yes. She was most likely surprised that he chose her over all other women in history.
The passage says that she pondered her answer. She thought about it. She didn’t answer right away. It took her time to decide. God patiently waited.
This story teaches us a lot about our interactions with each other.
In our series from November on Staying Power we talked about finding ways to share our faith and we mentioned the importance of living your life in a way that is worth modeling and worth following. Living it in a way that others might say, “I want what they have.”
We expressed that again last Sunday when we asked you to choose joy.
One way we do that is to identify people in our lives and to begin to pray for them. There are people all around us whether they are Christian or not who deserve joy in their life, the joy of a Savior.
So begin to pray for them, that God would open up ways for you to be a friend to them. Pray that he will give you the courage. Be someone who is open and available to them, easy to talk to, generous and kind. Then, when appropriate, invite them to church, whether it’s online or in person! Sooner or later circumstances or conditions, events or issues, will make an invitation to church appropriate and welcome. And it just so happens that Christmas is the perfect season and excuse to invite someone. Often when people aren’t normally open to going to church, they will actually come at Christmas. So take a chance this year, ask someone that you think would enjoy it. It may be the encouragement they didn’t even know they needed.
When you make the invitation, you have done most of your job. Whether they come or not is up to them and God. But your job isn’t done yet: you should continue to pray for them, whether they come or not. We should continue to be a friend.
When you invest your time in people, and show them the joy of the Lord, it affords you that opportunity to invite others. And what better occasion than Christmas Mass here at Saint Mary.
The Angel Gabriel invited Mary to participate in Christmas. Our Lord invites us to participate as well, by inviting others into the joy of the season.