This Advent season, Christians eagerly await the celebration of our savior, portrayed in a text dating back nearly two millennia. The story offers a paradox in which two simplistic people, Mary and Joseph, welcome God as a child. I’m sure many of you have heard this story, perhaps as a student of Sister Michele Healy, Terry Giles, Ph.D., the Rev. Casimir Wozniak, the Rev. Michael Kesicki or my good friend, Eric Dart, Ph.D. But have you ever paused to consider what this extraordinary event means for you?
Like many of you, I’m sure an episode of a hit series on Netflix, Hulu or another platform has become a welcome reprieve from the coursework and exam prep or the preparation for professional exams and grad school applications.
Recently, I’ve been hooked on Netflix’s “The Crown”, starring Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II. I am especially intrigued by the early relationship that emerges between Elizabeth and Queen Mary, her grandmother. Following the death of Elizabeth’s father and Mary’s son, King George VI, Queen Mary instructs Elizabeth on what the British monarchy represents. In episode four of the new series, Queen Mary states, “Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth; to give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards, an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives.” The exchange happens at a crossroads in Elizabeth’s life; her impending coronation has her questioning a life that will be far removed from the ordinary and will invite only the extraordinary. Elizabeth’s challenge, perhaps, is to be reminded of the very ordinary she governs.
Jesus of Nazareth entered the world in quite an ordinary way, magnified and phenomenalized through history and story-telling. The politically hostile world of Roman occupation in Israel and the madness of King Herod set the stage for a birth in a simple box lined with straw and surrounded by the scents of an ordinary barn.
Under a celestial anomaly, a baby boy was born without a crown, a title or throne — these are all things he would come to ‘earn’ — but born in a way no other monarch could imagine. This boy was God incarnate. Indeed, this monarchy was born to “grace and dignify the earth.” God chose this opportunity to become flesh and bones, belittling himself to the ordinary.
The child in the manger would grow to offer ordinary people the very chance to do extraordinary things. How, you may ask. Through love — agape — and charity — caritas. God took form in the weakest and most ordinary of creation, humanity, to demonstrate the possibility of the extraordinary.
To recognize the extraordinary, we must do nothing more than watch the children. We are reminded of Christ’s invitation to see the extraordinary through the eyes of a child in Matthew 19:14, and recognize that the majesty of this time of year offers an opportunity to love, to be charitable and to expect nothing in return from a God who chose to be a child of humanity.
In loving one another, a task difficult in these terse political times, we fulfill Christ’s call in John 13:34 to love one another as he so loved us. In loving one another, we enact the extraordinary through acts of the ordinary. We are invited into the manger to witness the moment of grace dignifying the earth, through an ordinary act which welcomed in extraordinary love.
So, to those of you who may be struggling this season — academically, financially or otherwise — know that you are more than just ordinary. You too can do the extraordinary, by simply loving in ordinary ways.
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