By Jenna Ebener
Christmas is here! For many people, that phrase is said with relief as it signifies a new year is upon us. However, Christmas is going to look different this year. Traditions, time with extended family and friends, and extravagant gifts are likely on hold. Yet, let us not forget what Christmas is truly about: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11).
For on this glorious day, the prophecies came true and Christ became like us in every way except sin. He was born of a woman and raised by a family. He learned family rules (do not stay behind on family trips) and developed his relationship with God the Father. We know he was in his 30s when he began his public ministry. It would be another three years before he would die on the cross to save us all.
By becoming a human being and living among us until he was well into adulthood, Jesus signified how important our lives are to him and his Father. He truly knows what it is like to be human. He knows that even when we are not actively engaging in a ministry, each moment matters. He knows we do not need big titles to make a difference. He knows our backgrounds do not define who we are and who we are meant to be.
Even though he did not sin, he still faced temptations that would be difficult for any of us to ignore all of the time. He still experienced a range of emotions, including anger and sadness. Yet, he did not let those emotions control him. He had an extremely busy schedule and often went without meals and sleep, yet sought out places of solitude to rest and connect even deeper with his Father. He is the Son of God, born of a human woman.
Mary, too, was like us, a human being. One big difference is that she did not sin. Yet, she faced challenges. She was only a young teen and about to be married when, unexpectedly, an angel told her that she was pregnant with the Son of God!
How many of us could process that news and willingly accept it, knowing how much harder our life was going to be? She not only was seemingly having a child out of wedlock, but also expected to raise the Son of God! Imagine the pressure! Now, imagine Joseph, who was even more like us. The woman he was to marry was pregnant, and she was saying the baby was the child of God and he, Joseph, was going to help raise him? Both Mary and Joseph trusted God with their whole hearts to guide them. They knew they were not alone.
The Holy Family faced great challenges. We also face challenges; we also have the capability to be holy in facing them. Many of those challenges may have seemed to occur all at once this year. Yet, God gives us the strength to handle our challenges. God knows what it is like to be us.
Jesus saved Mary from sin. Do we let him save us? Let us put aside our challenges for a moment and reflect on the beauty of Jesus’ birth. Where do we see signs of what he does for us? Newborn babies, the night sky, Christmas hymns, someone in need, even farm animals may spark a connection in you. I challenge you to pause each day and find something that reminds you of the miracle of our salvation, which we celebrate with the birth of a boy.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5).
(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with medical needs.)