The angel, Gabriel, said, “Hail Mary full of grace, blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Mary replied, “Let it be according to your word.” - Lk. 1:26-38

The following true story was told to me by a dear friend. Once upon a time, at a neighboring parish, the church school was preparing for its annual Christmas pageant. The priest was busy with the children and their costumes when a little bit of a girl, dressed as an angel, came up to him. She was sobbing uncontrollably. “I can’t be in the pageant. I can’t be an angel.” “Of course you can, Virginia,” replied the priest. “Oh, no I can’t,” she insisted. “Why not?” asked the priest. Stammering, Virginia sobbed, “I can’t be an angel. I CAN’T FLY.”

Many of us respond to Christmas with the same sense of expectation which causes panic. Christmas is only days away. I can’t fly. I haven’t written the cards yet. I can’t fly. I haven’t got all the gifts yet. I can’t fly.

Our expectations for Christmas should be based on faith: our past faith, our present faith, and our faith in the future. But sometimes we get all mixed up and lose our sense of priorities. The wrapping on the package becomes more important than the expression of love. Now, there are in the story of the little angel, Virginia, some interesting underlying motifs which help to define the various aspects of the term “faith.” First of all, the event took place in the household of faith. Faith is a communal heritage. Second, Virginia was part of a group of people who had a commitment and trust in God. Faith is commitment and trust. Third, Virginia knew some of the Christmas story and it was important to her. Faith is also defined in a third sense as a series of statements or beliefs about God’s relationship to us. Fourth, Virginia was surrounded by love: the parental love of her mother and father, the love of her friends, and the love of God, expressed in the community of her parish. Virginia’s expectation was set in the context of faith. Within that context she was given the reassurance that allowed her to go ahead and participate in the event.

As you prepare for Christmas, think about your expectations and your faith. Think about your priorities and the strings that bind you. Release the strings of false expectations. When we focus on the event of the birth of Christ, then we can soar in our hearts like angels in response to the miracle of love - the miracle of Christmas. Then each of us in our own story with open expectation can say with Mary, “Let it be according to your word.” Amen.