There is no doubt about it. Christmas is a dangerous time of year.
You ever tried negotiating a mall parking lot between Black Friday and Christmas Eve? You know one level of danger.
You ever tried to gather together a fractious, far-flung family into one Christmas moment? You know another level of danger.
You ever tried buying a toy for the kids or grandkids, a toy where levers don’t break off, where there are no hidden, choky bits, where glitches galore don’t make the toy “unsafe?” You know another whole kind of threat.
But the real “danger” of Christmas is not about parking spaces or perilous toys or dysfunctional families, but is the danger we are all called to open ourselves to during this season of miracles.
Why is Christmas dangerous?
- It could go to your head.
- It’s hard on your heart.
- It callouses your hands and feet.
In this week’s gospel text Luke unveils the vision Mary had of the angel Gabriel announcing to her the astounding message of the work of God that would change her life. Mary was a first century young Jewish girl, most likely around 13 or 14 years old. As was the custom, and to her good fortune, she was already “betrothed” to be married to Joseph. This “betrothal” was far more than our modern notion of an “engagement.” Betrothal was legally binding, a solemn contract. Promises and “bride prices” would have already been exchanged.
As a “betrothed” woman Mary was in effect already legally and morally bound to Joseph. Both her family and Joseph’s family were already committed and connected. To “disengage” from such a binding legal and religious contract would require great effort and cast a considerable shadow of possible shame upon both families.
And then came Gabriel…