For women in the ancient world, motherhood was prized and desired above almost all else. Sacred scripture tells of many women who pleaded with God to let them conceive. From Sarah, the mother of Isaac, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, the Bible is replete with women who finally, in their old age, were granted the gift of motherhood for which they had begged God.
How marvelously significant it is, then, that in the town of Nazareth those many years ago, a young girl named Mary, unmarried and probably feeling altogether unready for motherhood, was visited by an angel who delivered God’s plea: would she give God a child? Mary’s response is a model par excellence for all those who aspire to be good stewards: “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). And so the real mystery and beauty of Christmas is delivered: God turns the world upside down. In the words of the Magnificat, Mary proclaims the hope of every good steward: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:46).
He has dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Here is a new understanding of the God who desires not our begging and our pleas, but our ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be active stewards in his plan of salvation. For the Christian steward, the consumerism, the gaudiness, the excesses of our cultural Christmas can be overcome by answering the call to live simpler lives, to use less, to feed the poor, to quiet ourselves in stillness rather than grow louder in frenzied activity.
In her book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming, Professor Wendy Wright from Creighton University writes: “The ancient desert dwellers of our early Christian communities tell us that the surest way into the heart of God is to be still. In being still we learn to be attentive to the vast and hidden stillness that permeates all things.” In a world which prizes and desires wealth above so many things, the Christian steward finds in the stillness the true hope which lies at the heart of Christmas. Christ has come, and he comes again and again, and finally in the end, Christ comes. Once again, God implores us to receive this child in the stillness of our hearts, and respond to his call to transform the world’s values – to turn the world upside down.