Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hard Choices

-a desert trail-

Every day I walk one of the many desert trails around our home, which means that every day I have to choose which trail I wish to walk along. Some of the trails are simple and easy, others far more strenuous. 

Interestingly enough, the simple trails do not lead to the most beautiful places in the wilderness. If you want to find a lake in the mountains or discover a desert oasis you have to choose a path that is more difficult and more arduous. 

This morning as I sit in my garden and look out at a nativity scene assembled under my olive tree, I think about that Christmas story about to be told once again in just a few days, and I realize that the story of Jesus' birth teaches an important lesson about following arduous paths and making hard choices in life.

The familiar story of Jesus' birth appears so sweet and tender on the surface - a newborn child, angels singing in the heavens, and of course Joseph and Mary meekly looking on the infant in the manger. 

However, when you scratch beneath the surface of the story, you realize that the birth would never have happened were it not for Mary and the choices she made. She had to agree to accept the invitation to be the mother. Her acceptance meant that she would  be socially ostracized, rejected by her community as an unwed mother. Her acceptance would mean that her life from now on would be radically different because she was bearing Jesus into the world.

The Christmas story is as much about Mary as about Jesus. It is a story of a strong, young woman, willing to make difficult, passionate, risky choices in order for love to break into the world. Without Mary's hard choices to follow an arduous path, there would have been no Christmas story.

Like all biblical stories, the Christmas story isn't so much an historical account of real-life events as it is a "larger than life" story told to teach deeper truths.  The Christmas story is not only a story told to Christians or to believers, but also it is a story that touches a deeper truth about our human condition. It teaches the universal wisdom that "love doesn't just happen."  

We bring love and beauty into the world when we are willing to make the hard sacrificial choices in life.

As I sit in my garden and look at the manger scene under the olive tree, I think about people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. They changed the world. They gave birth to love and beauty because of their willingness to make hard choices - prison, abuse, rejection gave birth to justice, compassion and reconciliation.

Every day people make choices to get married, to have children, to send their kids to college, to reach out in service to others- all choices in life that demand sacrifice. 

Love is born out of hard choices.

In these few days before Christmas, I sit in my garden and I reflect on the choices I make every day. What trail will I choose to follow - the easy path or the more arduous trail leading to greater beauty?

These are the questions I ask on these days before Christmas.

The choice is always up to me.

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1 comment:

  1. On the other hand - did God pick Mary because she was engaged to Joseph who would Father such a child?