Born in Your Heart: Mary’s ‘Yes’ and Why It’s Relevant Today


    The Christmas Season has been my favorite time of year ever since I can remember. When I was a young child, and even as a teenager, it was mostly a fascination with the presents and twinkling lights. We had a tradition at our house; every Christmas Eve we’d gather around the tree, and my mom or dad would read the nativity story before the presents were distributed. So from an early age my sister and I knew that a very long time ago a baby was born in a faraway stable, born to a Virgin to be God’s ultimate gift to humankind…

     In my twenties and thirties I was ready to turn away from the Church as it grew, in my view, ever more irrelevant in this world and in the lives of people who needed hope the most—almost as irrelevant as a baby born in a stable in a distant time in some faraway land…

    But I will confess that even during this period when my faith stumbled, Christmas remained a time of hope and light for me, a time to believe that good would win after all, despite all appearances to the contrary.

     Now, in 2016, a year in which the world seemed to work very hard to convince me that there is no hope, and where the distant God on His Heavenly Throne has become little more than a political pawn, I find myself, quite ironically, back in the Christian fold, or rather on its inner fringes. And as a practicing Celtic Christian, I find myself purposely observing Advent for the first time, and once again I’m faced with a baby born in a stable, a baby who would grow into a man only to die an horrific death on a Roman cross…  

    Every one of us who grew up in a Christian household knows this story and we know how it ends. But this Advent I found myself drawn to explore a part of the story I never really considered before: Mary.

     A young girl from Nazareth said ‘yes’ to God and in so doing changed the course of human history. But her ‘yes’ put her in mortal danger; it cost her reputation, her good name. She got pregnant out of wedlock and that alone was grounds for her people to stone her. She knew this and she still said yes, yes to God, yes to a baby in a manger…

     But what does Mary’s ‘yes’ mean for us today in 2016? Does it even have any relevance?

     I believe it does.

     Meister Eckhart once said: ‘What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?’

     I stand with Meister Eckhart in believing that the Christ is present in the world today, in nature, in relationships, in life itself as the very essence of life.

    Maybe this Christmas it is time to turn our eyes away from the Bethlehem of 2000 years ago and the manger there and realize that Christ wants and needs to be born in us today…and maybe the best we can come up with at present is a dirty, overcrowded stable and an empty manger for a crib. That’s okay. Can we stand with Mary this Christmas and say ‘yes’?

    It will cost us, but will we do it anyway?

     We believe in God, but do we believe in God-in-us? We believe in God in heaven, but do we believe in God-on-Earth? We believe in God out there, but do we believe in God-with-us?

     In the 2006 movie, Nativity Story, there is a scene where Mary is going into the first stages of labor just as she and Joseph are entering Bethlehem, and all the inn doors are slammed in their faces. Standing out in the street with Mary in his arms, Joseph desperately shouts:  “Can anybody help us! Please, is there a place for us?”   

     Imagine that scene for a minute. Imagine you are there, perhaps behind a locked inn door. You listen to the man’s panicked calls and hear the young woman crying out in pain. Your master told you not to let anyone else in, because the place is so packed there’s no room for a mouse.

     But your heart contracts thinking about the girl and her babe. The stable comes to mind, but you dismiss it almost immediately as being too dirty and smelly, not at all suitable for a baby to be born…  

     But the man calls again and the woman sobs and something makes you unbolt the door and run outside.

     “There’s no place at the inn,” you say once you reach them. Both look bone-tired and the young woman’s pretty brown eyes are clouded with pain.

     So young, you think as those eyes look into yours. She could’ve been your daughter or your sister…

     “There’s a stable close by,” you hear yourself say, “it’s not much…but it’s yours…”

    And overhead a strange star appears in the night sky, the biggest you’ve ever seen and it’s so bright it hurts your eyes to look at it directly…it is so bright you think it might just turn night into day…

By Mercia van der Vyver