Every year, at Holy Mass on December 19th, we read from Luke 1. And we confront the question: Why did Zechariah get punished for asking the Archangel Gabriel a question about John the Baptist’s birth, but Mary did not get punished for asking about how Jesus could be born?
And the answer is?…
–Zechariah—a wise, old priest—should have known better than to doubt.
–St. John the Baptist got conceived according to the traditional, birds-and-the-bees method, so Zechariah’s question was petulant. Whereas Mary asked a perfectly honest question.
–Zechariah was a chatterbox who talked too much anyway.
Remember how, two years ago, a lot of people worried about the Mayan apocalypse? And fifteen years ago, a lot of people worried that Y2K would crash everyone’s computer? 1,015 years ago, most of Western civilization sat waiting for the world to end at the turn of the first millennium.
I don’t mean to make fun of any of these people. In a way, they had the right idea. Zechariah failed to give God credit for being able to do something totally unexpected.
Do I know what Christmas is supposed to be like for me spiritually? Aren’t I supposed to have such-and-such feelings, such-and-such ‘faith experiences’ at Christmas? That’s the way it always is. It’s traditional. Christmas is a time for my traditional emotions.
For me personally, Christmas is traditionally a time to be tired and out-of-sorts. Because I have a cold. Because Our Lady decided to appear to St. Juan Diego in December instead of July. Thereby turning Advent from difficult to practically impossible for the Martinsville/Rocky Mount/Roanoke-Catholic priest to manage.
Traditional spiritual experiences.
But what if these are not what the Lord has planned for us for Christmas AD 2014? What if this Christmas will involve spiritual graces for me unlike any I have ever received before?
Lord, help us open ourselves up to the future that You have planned for us! Open us up to the Christmas that You have planned for us! We don’t know how to plan like You do. What You have in mind is much better, much more interesting, and much more wonderful than anything we have ever thought of.