Gratitude Day 546
Thurs., Dec. 24, 2020
Luke 1:38 – Then Mary responded, saying, “This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord!] As his servant, I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.” And the angel left her.
Sometimes, things happen that truly touch your heart.
While I have shared this story previously, it is SO GOOD that I must share again. It’s not just a great story. It captures so much of what tonight … Christmas Eve night … is about.
Several years ago, my dear friend Kristen and I spent a week in Argentina. The trip was instigated because Kristen won a grant for being named a teacher of the year. Mrs. Terry is a Spanish teacher and is highly creative in her approach and methodology for engaging students. The grant provided funds for Kristen to obtain continuing education credits. Kristen knew she wanted to visit Argentina with the funds. Unfortunately, her husband was not available to join her on the trip which allowed me to be her traveling companion.
As part of our trip, we both wanted to fulfill continuing education obligations. For Kristen, this meant visiting schools and seeing their education structure. For me, a visit to an orphanage deeply touched our hearts.
One day, we visited a private school. With smaller classes and fewer students, we were able to visit every class. All students were required to learn English. While Kristen is a fluent Spanish speaker, we tried to speak English so they could hear a native English speaker. Kristen began our presentation by sharing some information about the United States and where we lived. We allowed plenty of time for students to ask us any question, which was always the most interesting part of each classroom visit.
Our visit was just a couple weeks after President Obama had been elected for his first term. Students were not shy about asking if we voted for the new American president, whom they knew by name. We were asked what foods we liked, how many languages we could speak (unfortunately, I only really know English), our families, our jobs and a wide variety of other topics.
It was Thanksgiving week. It had just snowed and was cold when we left the states. Being in the southern hemisphere, spring was just arriving during our visit. Temperatures were increasing and people were excited with the warmer weather.
The most interesting class we visited that day was their version of a kindergarten class. These students didn’t know as much English, so Kristen spoke more Spanish with the kids. Sometimes, she would translate a question into English for me and we’d agree upon the best answer for her to share back in English. After Kristen shared that we had snow back home, one little boy’s arm popped right up.
We were in the mid-section of Argentina, which rarely had snow. In fact, most students in this class had never seen snow.
Except this one little guy who was so excited to share this snow experience. During a recent family vacation, this little guy traveled to southern Argentina. And they saw SNOW! Excited to share this experience, the boy described snow as best as he could. He shared how he’d played in the snow, ate the snow, made snowballs and threw them at other people. He concluded his comments by standing, extending his hands towards the sky and declaring that snow is truly “Magnifico!”
Magnifico! Just in cast you were wondering, this translates into Magnificent in English.
Magnifico! This little guy was so impressed with snow and he wanted his classmates to know this.
As I heard him say, “Magnifico!” my brain went immediately to Advent. As soon as I returned from this trip, Advent would be beginning. I had made plans for the many special events during Advent. I’d picked scriptures for each worship service. One of those passages shares when the angel visits Mary and declares that she, a poor servant girl, would be giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Potentially, everything in this young girl’s life was turned upside down in a matter of seconds.
A young teenaged gal, it was probably impossible for Mary to grasp how the information the angel shared with her would change her life. Yet, Mary took this life-changing news in stride. She didn’t get all wigged out. Or question whether she was the right person. Rather than expressing anxiety or worry or concern, Mary responded in the most humble and natural of ways: her heart and soul broke out into song and she declared the information as “Magnifico!”
Just like the little boy from Argentina who stood up, extended his arms to the sky and declared snow as “Magnifico,” I envision Mary standing before the angel Gabriele and being so overwhelmed with the news that she heard that there was only one possible response: “Magnifico!”
While Mary’s response was so positive, even she had to know that accepting the role of being the Messiah’s mother would be complicated. Difficult. Filled with all the regular anxieties of birthday a child but even more elevated because this WAS God’s son. Engaged but not officially married, Mary could have been drug to the village square and ridiculed and stoned because she was pregnant out of wedlock.
But no, this is not what Mary does. Instead, she breaks into an impromptu song and reiterates how special God is to her and this unborn baby. The whole series of events for this to happen is simply Magnifico.
Tonight, is Christmas Eve. The night we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child into this world. Historically, there is so much anticipation for Christmas Eve. Normally, we would be planning which gathering we’ll be attending or hosting, what time service we’ll take in and whether or not any gifts will be opened on Christmas Eve.
This Christmas Eve will look rather different this year. Worship maybe online or while sitting in a car or standing in the cool night air. Gatherings will be smaller and more intimate. Even the gift-giving might be scaled back.
Yet, this Christmas Eve MUST and WILL BE “Magnifico!” NO. MATTER. WHAT.
It doesn’t matter if our traditional Christmas Eve services will be scrapped for something less traditional. It doesn’t matter than maybe the only folks you’ll be with tonight are those from your immediate household. It doesn’t matter that new traditions will be begging to be implemented tonight.
Because all of it will be rooted in the story of a son coming into this world through a young teen-aged daughter who declared his arrival as “Magnifico!”
Mary had every reason under the sun to not be excited about the news she received from the angel that night. Her response reflects none of this. Instead, she CHOOSES to focus on the unbelievable news and her role in it.
She declares this news as “Magnifico.”
Folks – whether there is a pandemic or not, Christmas Eve must always be “Magnifico.” While many of our normal traditions may not be possible this year, let’s not miss just how special of a night this is. May we not underestimate how important it was for this birthday to be celebrated. Revered. Remember.
Because it truly is “Magnifico.”
For the magnifico birth of Jesus, I am grateful.
Holy God – on this holiest of nights, may we discover once again how magnifico the series of events were that brought Your son into this world as a human being. Mary knew this. I pray I know this. Amen.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please pass it along to someone else who will also enjoy it.