When you think “Christmas,” what do you picture? Maybe presents under the tree. Maybe jolly ol’ St. Nicholas. Or maybe the Nativity scene. With Mary and Joseph in the stable. And the little baby Jesus in the swaddling clothes in the manger.
Those last words come right from Luke’s gospel. After Jesus is born, an angel is chatting with some shepherds and says to them: “You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Lovely words. But what exactly do they tell us?
Well, the manger was a fun little animal trough that they hopefully cleaned out before using. And the swaddling clothes? Really that just kind of means that he was all wrapped up tight, nice and cozy. It’s something that moms have done since basically the beginning of moms and many still do to this very day.
Now, that might not seem overly important to you, but think back on that scene. They were all alone in Bethlehem, and no one was there to help them out. Mary was brand new at this. It was her first time being a mom. And still, Mary knew exactly what to do with her newborn child. Probably from a lifetime of watching and helping out all kinds of kids. Even as a new mom, she knew. She was ready. She was prepared.
But being able to successfully swaddle wasn’t the only way she was prepared, right? I mean, she was really prepared. She had to be. She wasn’t just a new mother. She was the new “mother of God.” So yeah, she’d been prepared. By a lifetime of faith, by the angelic message of the Annunciation, and, most especially, by this cool thing where she was born without that whole mess we call sin.
That last piece, it’s really what we’re celebrating with the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception that comes on December 8. That from the very first moment of her conception, Mary was given this special grace that kept her free from the stain of sin. Why? So she’d be prepared. Prepared for the job: bringing God’s Son into the world.
Now, I don’t want to overstep, but I highly doubt that you were immaculately conceived. I know I wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to be prepared like Mary was. It doesn’t mean we can’t strive toward purity and holiness that she had. In fact, that’s exactly what right now is all about. This Advent season is specifically in place to give us the chance to get into that immaculate mindset of Mary. To try to be ready when her Son arrives. To prepare, as best we can, for the coming of Jesus.
Why not use this Advent season, then, in a special way, preparing a little harder and really using this time for something more than just enjoying the purple and pink. God did this incredible thing, making sure that for the very first time a person was immaculately conceived so she’d be prepared for the coming of his Son. What, then, might we do to try our best to be holy, ready, and prepared as well?