What a year . . .
. . . a year in which public calamity and private hardship rolled in endless-seeming succession, in which the nation’s leaders vacillated between unreasonable vigilance and irresponsible negligence, in which it could be said of both natural and human affairs that if they could go wrong, they would.
For herself, of course, and for those closest her, the pain and the joy had been strangely mixed. The greatest blow her young life had yet received was delivered by the gentlest gesture of an angel; her virgin unwedded womb was filled with divine life. She fled to the home of her cousin to wait out the social isolation—and found suffering and blessing together there too: after fulfilling the great longing of every priest, to serve in the temple, Zechariah had lost his voice, but what he could not tell the world was that the Lord had opened the dead womb of Elizabeth his wife. Joseph also had had to hold bitter and bliss with both hands. Hoping to become the husband of a maiden bride, he heard heaven’s messenger appoint him the foster father of infant Immanuel.
So when the government issued yet one more demand at the end of the year—that all the world should return home for contact tracing—nine-months-pregnant Mary traveled with Joseph to his fathers’ beginnings in Bethlehem. And wouldn’t you know, if something could go wrong, it would: everything was closed, everyone was afraid, no one would tear off their masks of cautious self-protection. So it was in a pen for animals that her birth pains began, and it was into all this fear and frustration and caution and worry, and disappointment and pain and absence and grief, that God came.
This year and ever, may all who greet His coming find ways to say, like the mother of God,
“I am the servant of the Lord; may it be to me according to Thy word.”