(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11-14a)
I’ll be honest with you–my life is not exactly the way I want it to be. Like everyone, I have rough spots; times of illness and stress and just plain grumpiness. Times it is difficult to accept life as the gift that it is.
I imagine Mary had one of those times when she found out about the census. Can you imagine? Nearly nine months pregnant and she’s expected to travel to Bethlehem? Walking and riding the donkey, and then not even a comfortable bed at the end of the journey. What must Mary have been thinking when the contractions started there in the stable? As she paced the straw-strewn floor, stepping over piles of dung and around various animals? Was she thinking about how life is a gift from God?
It’s difficult to keep in mind the holiness of life, the fact of life as a gift, when we are having a bad day; when our plans crumble; when our bodies ache, our computers break, the weather does not cooperate. When we cannot attend concerts or plays or indoor worship services or family Thanksgiving meals because of a world-wide pandemic.
And beyond having bad days (weeks, months), many of us face deep disappointments about the reality of our lives. We may not have the children we hoped for, the marriage we longed for, the career we envisioned, the accomplishments we imagined.
I expect Mary and Joseph had imagined their lives quite differently. Sure, giving birth in a stable was inconvenient, but the pregnancy itself was the real issue. What would this pregnancy and birth mean for their life together, for their standing in the community? This was not the life Mary or Joseph had planned.
Yet life is a gift from God. That’s what I’ve been thinking about during this season of giving; amidst the Christmas gifts and the magi bearing their treasures. That this life that I am living is a gift; it is a treasure.
That doesn’t always feel true. But it is true. I’m not talking about being thankful despite our bad days and disappointments. We can always find someone worse off than we are. We can always find something that is good in the midst of our messy lives. And those are good practices–to gain some perspective, not focus on the negative.
Right now, though, I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about receiving your life–all of your life–as a gift from God. The joys and disappointments. The parts that turn out the way you want and the parts that don’t.
For God has made everything beautiful in its time.