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Close Encounters of the Christmas Kind

Christmas is about love and miracles. That really is the great gift that the season brings us, a moment to pause to breathe deep in gratitude for family, friends, blessings. We share our celebration rituals as we try to be a little kinder, a little nicer, a little more generous. ‘Tis the season.

And, of course, the whole idea began with the birth of a very special child, the baby Jesus. This is what unites us as Christians everywhere, brothers and sisters who claim the same Heavenly Father.

And the same Mother.

At this time of year, I think of dear Mary, visited as a young virgin by the angel Gabriel. That in itself must have been a little disconcerting, but to be told that the future Savior of the world rested in her womb had to have been overwhelming. And humbling. And terrifying.

Let’s face it: God could have sent His Son to earth on a golden chariot, accompanied by trumpets blaring and angels sprinkling diamond dust. That certainly would have garnered attention. But He chose her to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy. Instead, the birth of Jesus was quiet, humble. There is a reason why “Silent Night” is the most beloved of carols. All was calm; all was bright.

For those of us who have given birth, the mere thought of having a child without help in a dirty stable gives us pause. It is hard not to apply our modern sensibilities about germs and disease and pain when we think of that miraculous delivery. But Mary was a resilient woman of character, chosen from among many to bring the living hope to all of mankind. That inspires me to realize the strength of my own womanhood.

And so, one afternoon when I had a spiritual encounter with the Mother of God, I was forever changed, transformed by the accompanying peace.

The day after my first chemo infusion, I was sitting on the floor in my closet, going through an old jewelry box. We all have those faded velvet-lined containers that contain lone earrings and broken bracelets, the bits of pieces of our lives that we somehow can’t manage to part with. It was there that I found a Mary medal, one that belonged to my oldest son when he was young. For some reason, I felt compelled to wear it, to place it close to my heart. And doing so brought me a strange comfort at a time when my life was riddled with uncertainty and apprehension.

Hours later, I crawled into bed, the fatigue from treatment overwhelming. And in that place between sleep and wakefulness, she came to me.

“Fear not,” she said, “you must remain confident and stay strong. Cast aside your concerns. I know that you worry about the part of your body that has been stricken, but your ovaries are what unites you to every woman who has ever lived since Eve. Including me. They are what makes us mothers. Do not forget that from my ovary Christ was born. I will be with you and so will my Son. All will be well. Believe it.”

I sat upright, trying to calm my racing heart as I wondered if I had dreamed the whole encounter or if it had really happened. And in truth, I will never know with absolute certainty. But faith is the belief in what we can’t see or touch. That becomes the foundation for miracles. I have claimed mine.

The medal remains around my neck, a token of the assurance that I am cared for and loved. Not just at this special time of year, but always.

And so during this season of wonders, when all we put aside our troubles to embrace all that fills us with optimism about the future, I wish you joy and laughter. May your tomorrows be happy ones. Always.

Merry Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill to men (and women) everywhere.


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