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Dec 11, 2019 465 0 Reshma Thomas
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A Bundle of Joy Awaits You

Do you really know the meaning of “Christmas?” Is it merely a celebration of the birth of Jesus?

The sun was already low when they reached the entrance of the cave. The young donkey that had left them at Joseph’s ancestral house to run around the town now gamboled joyfully around them. “Look,” said Mary to Joseph, “It is certainly the will of God that we should go in here.” However, Joseph was distressed because he had expected to be welcomed by his relatives at Bethlehem.

Although the cave was thickly stacked with bundles of straw, Joseph cleared some space to make a couch of rugs for Mary. Joseph was still apologizing for the poverty of the shelter but Mary was joyful and contented. Do you really know the meaning of “Christmas?” Is it merely a celebration of the birth of Jesus? When the time came for Mary to deliver the baby, Joseph retired to pray. At midnight, Mary was wrapped in an ecstasy of prayer surrounded by a great radiance. Everything, even inanimate objects, seemed to come alive in the light. The roof of the cave disappeared and a pathway of light opened above her, rising into heaven.

In this luminous light, she perceived choirs of heavenly spirits. Mary gazed downward adoring God, who had chosen her to be His Mother, as He lay on the earth before her in the form of a helpless newborn baby. The Redeemer of the world became a tiny child lying on the straw at the Blessed Virgin’s knees.

Mary gently lifted the child into her arms and enveloped Him in her veil. Angels prostrated themselves in front of her, adoring the baby. After the baby was tenderly wrapped in swaddling bands, Joseph laid Him in a manger filled with rushes, covered by a cloth. Mary and Joseph fondly admired Him, giving praise to God with tears of joy.

Blessed Anne Emmerich recorded this vision of the birth of Jesus in her book “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Even the most beautiful paintings of Christ’s birth could not recapture the boundless jubilation she saw in reality. This tremendous joy was poured out on the world at the birth of our Saviour. We experience a portion of this happiness whenever babies are born. How rightly they are called “bundles of joy.”

Squirming for the Best Answer

One of my newlywed friends recently asked a curious question: How do I prepare to have a baby? I was a little bemused, and then I remembered the solemn occasion of our wedding and how I ardently prayed that God would bless us with little cherubs. When I became pregnant our joy knew no bounds but fear crept into my mind. I worried obsessively about the baby in my womb.

Of course, the first thing I did was turn to Google to find out what wisdom the internet had to reveal about pregnancy. I even downloaded the pregnancy app to get updates as my little one grew from the size of a cherry to a pumpkin. I took great care that I ate well each day— weighing out correct portions of protein, carbohydrates and fiber while consulting the list of essential nutrients. I even counted the number of nuts I was munching. All I thought about was the health of my baby.

Much to my trepidation, our first-born child was prematurely delivered after six months of pregnancy. Just three months later our world came crashing down when we found out that our beautiful little angel had suffered severe brain damage. As our little girl grew up unable to speak or even properly look at me, propped in a wheelchair, unable to do anything by herself, I debated endlessly about what had gone wrong? After all my careful groundwork why did such a thing happen to my little girl?

From then on, whenever I saw moms with healthy babies I wondered how they managed to achieve this miracle. By this time, I had also miscarried three times, which only aggravated my fears. When our fifth baby was conceived, I went to confession and poured out all the fears and dark thoughts that oppressed me. The kind priest spoke consoling words that I will never forget: “The baby in your womb is really in the hands of God. He takes care of all that your baby needs. You only have to trust Him and surrender your little one completely into His hands.” At that moment, I felt deeply moved as all my anxieties seemed to float away. Each day I prayed this simple little prayer: “God, my Heavenly Father, the baby in my womb is really in your hands. I know you are in complete control. Jesus, I trust in you!”

I had also been given a pregnancy leaflet “Blessed is the Fruit of the Womb” by Angel’s Army, which helped me take one day at a time and meditate deeply on Mother Mary’s journey through pregnancy until Jesus’ birth. I began to find precious gems in the joyful mysteries. Curiously, I felt that I could understand what Mother Mary had to go through in each mystery.

Precious Gems Along the Way

When Gabriel appeared Mary was full of apprehensions. Conceiving a child before marriage could result in being stoned to death and she had hoped to remain a virgin. Yet, she simply surrendered herself “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, Be it done to me according to Your word.” Her “yes” to become the mother of Jesus expanded into a “yes” to becoming a loving mother to the whole world, including you and me.

We, also, have great expectations that may differ from God’s plans. As we see in Mary’s dilemma, God really had a greater plan. You are precious in God’s sight and He is faithful in his promises. Simply surrender everything to Him and say “yes” confidently to His will.

After Mary conceived Jesus, she did not expect everyone to praise and serve her as mother of the Messiah. Instead, she hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. This journey was tedious at the best of times; for a woman in the first trimester of pregnancy who may suffer morning sickness and extreme fatigue it would have been exhausting, The great zeal and compassion aroused in her heart by the descent of the Holy Spirit prompted her to reach out to Elizabeth, who was pregnant at an advanced age, living in seclusion with her mute husband. How often have we reached out to the needy when our own circumstances are undesirable?

Pierced Heart

On that cold night in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary confronted rejection and loneliness with no other option but the shelter of a shepherd’s cave. Although Mary would have been more comfortable preparing peacefully for the birth at home, God’s plan took them to the City of David—Bethlehem. Did she ever complain?

During the last phase of pregnancy, I was often fatigued and in need of frequent rest. I wondered how Mary could endure it without a single complaint.

Often, I imagined Mary had the constant practical help of angels in her home in Nazareth. I pictured them helping her with the housework and cooking, changing Jesus’ diapers and amusing Him in his cradle. I even thought child Jesus might have delighted her by performing miracles in Nazareth. Instead, the holy family led a very ordinary life of work, prayer and recreation. We hear almost nothing about Jesus’ childhood and adolescence in the sacred scripture.

Here is the Saviour of the world, yet He is wrapped in swaddling clothes and resting in a poor manger. Mary said, “Yes, I believe.”

Here is the Son of God! Yet he needs to be taken care of like any other baby. Mary said, “Yes, I believe.” Here is a king whose reign will last forever, yet His parents are forced to flee to Egypt. Still, Mary said, “Yes, I Believe.” When the priest raises the blessed sacrament to speak the words: “Behold the Lamb of God …” Let Mary’s words reverberate in us: “Yes, I believe.”

Do you really know the meaning of “Christmas?” It is not merely a celebration of the birth of Jesus. The word itself reveals “Christ” “Mass,” which in turn spells out the sacrifice of Christ! Every day this sacrifice (Holy Mass) is offered around the world. When everything seems lost and no one truly understands or loves you, remember the most treasured “bundle of joy” awaits you in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us walk this “pilgrimage of faith,” holding the hands of Mary our mother and be filled with eternal joy.

Reshma Thomas

© serves on the Editorial Board of Shalom Tidings. She resides with her family in Kerala, India.

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