If I have come to depend on my phone for one thing more than any other, it would be the calendar app. The days when the phone gets forgotten on the kitchen counter are frustrating because I never quite feel on top of my day, or the least bit confident that I haven’t missed some commitment or other.
Our calendars keep us organized, and inevitably they also force us to be forward-looking. ‘What’s on the schedule for tomorrow, this weekend, next week..?’
Commitments aside, how wonderful it is to look forward to a special event in our lives; a trip, a family reunion, a birthday (for the children, at least) with the excitement that something special is about to happen. We make plans, and then we look forward in hopeful anticipation.
If these last few years have taught us anything, it is that even the best-laid plans can go awry.
If these last few years have taught us anything, it is that even the best-laid plans can go awry. From hemisphere to hemisphere, plans were made, then changed, then cancelled. For members of the youngest few generations at least, it may have been the first time in our lives that our trusty calendar couldn’t come through for us.
In biblical times, Mary would have made plans too. She was a young woman, engaged to be married, with her whole life ahead of her. And then the day came when her life changed forever. Not because of a pandemic, but because of an invitation.
“Do not be afraid, Mary”, said the angel, “for you have found favour with God. Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31).
How surprising, how terrifying, how confusing this must have been. And yet, Mary’s reply was ‘Yes’. She allowed herself to accept the unknown road ahead, trusting and believing that God had a plan for her life, with a role that only she could fill. A required census added a difficult and unplanned journey, and certainly, Mary would not have expected the need to beg for shelter when the time came for her to deliver her child.
In the Christian calendar, the season of Advent is a sacred time of expectation, anticipation, and hope. Anticipation of the arrival of Jesus, Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. Not only in a humble stable in Bethlehem but now, in our time. And with hope, we welcome the One who challenges us, surprises us, and even, at times, disrupts us. All while walking ‘with us’.
It may not be possible to abandon the calendar app in 2023, and we will certainly cherish being able to celebrate the special events and activities which were missed these last few years. But maybe in this Advent and Christmas season, we could look to Mary as an example of one who courageously said ‘Yes’ to God’s invitation, with all that that might entail. “Perhaps”, as we read in the book of Esther, “you were born for such a time as this”. (Esther 4:14).