The Church recalls the joyful mysteries leading up to the birth of our Lord Jesus, starting with the Annunciation - angel Gabriel announcing to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying:
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High overshadow you. Therefore the son to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"
- the Gospel according to Luke, 1:28,31-33,35
This is read on the Sunday before Christmas (21st December this year). It is indeed Mary's response to this, that makes Christmas possible:
"Behold, I am the handmaid or the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
- Luke 1:38
Mary was given to us as our Mother by Jesus, and She intercedes for our needs. Who would not run to a mother when in need, especially a mother so loving, patient and kind, so holy and clothed in virtue? I have always much to thank her for, and to ask her for.
Marian blue and white
Much has Mary helped me and much is the love in Her immaculate heart. Last week, I visited the shrine of Our Lady of Health, Vailankanni, in the state Tamil Nadu, South India. As the bus approached the place, little children from the seat behind cried in excitement "we've reaced Vailankanni". I had been to Vailankanni as a child, and my memory of that visit is very faint. But it was a blessing to be there at this time, in penitential prayerful preparation for the coming of Jesus. There I beheld the beautiful, heavenly Shrine of our Lady in all white, like heaven. It is a beautiful piece of Gothic architecture, built by Portuguese merchants, in gratitude to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed in a storm at sea, and were saved.
Christmas red and green
Now, back home, it is time to decorate the house for Christmas. Time to cover the house with red and green. The evergreen tree remains in the winter, while other trees wither. Green symbolizes eternal life, promised by Jesus. Red symbolizes the Precious blood Jesus came to shed for our sins, which is the reason God came to be born as a child.
In our house we have put up a tree, crib and star. The crib is a re-creation of the stable of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Statues of Mary and Joseph, with cows, donkeys, sheep are placed inside. On Christmas day, the statue of the baby Jesus is placed. A statue of an angel is placed singing "Gloria to God in the Highest". There are statues of shepherds who hear from angels that Jesus is born and go to see him.
Hail Priest, Prophet and King
The famous Christmas carol "We three kings of Orient are" helps us remember the Magi or Wise men, who came to visit Jesus. Actually, we do not know how many were there, but we know that they brought three gifts. Traditionally, they are called Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. They brought gifts of gold, which is for a king, frankincense, which is for a priest and myrrh, which is a symbol of death.
Click here to see my poem for Christ the King.