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The angel Gabriel gave word to Mary that she was going to be the mother of God. Mary tells him that she is the handmaid. Then, the last line: “the angel departed.” Does that strike you as odd? I would think that the angel needs to explain about some of the events that are about to take place. Don’t you think the angel would want to give Mary pertinent information on what is about to happen? Maybe a follow-up, or a conference call. Now if I where the angel, I would tell her, “The child will be born outside of Bethlehem, smack-dab in the middle of a shepherd’s field. You may think this odd to have the savior of the world born in a make-shift cave with domestic animals, but don’t worry about it. Two thousand years from now it will make a great story and provide a beautiful scene for a Christmas card. Then, Herod is going to find out that your son is the King of Israel. and he will send his soldiers to have Him killed. I may have to get back to you on that one. You need to remember that when Jesus is twelve, He will want to stay in Jerusalem in His Father’s house. However, He can’t stay there. You will need to get Him away as it is too dangerous once they discover who He is. Otherwise, Jesus will not make it to His fourteenth birthday. And when He stands before Pilate in judgement, Pilate is going to look for any reason to let Him go. He knows the charges have been trumped up. You may see an opportunity to save your son’s life, but you must not intervene.” It is amazing that Mary needed no instructions to know what to do. How? Emmanuel, God is with her.

When I first started to learn how to fly fish I met a good fly-fisherman and he kindly invited me to fish with him and his friend. The three of us fished together all morning, and they gave me great advice that I still use. When we went to lunch, I sat in front of them. Their friendship and respect conjured up some curiosity in me. “How long have you been fishing together?” The first friend said they knew each other many years ago. “When my wife got Alzheimer’s at a very early age, I took early retirement to take care of her. I was a schoolteacher. I gave up my job, my career, my pension and contact with my friends. One day I lost my wife.” He continued, “Peter, I was so heartbroken. She was all I had. I turned to drink.”

The second friend then said, “I had not seen or heard from him in seventeen years. I got a thought to call him. Why should I call? All these years and never a card or a call, why? When I did, it was a week after he buried his wife. I found him in despair. I said, ‘We are going fishing.’ We have been best friends ever since.”

When I first sat down to lunch with them, I thought that they were just two ordinary guys who liked to fly fish. I didn’t know they were both unsung heroes: One who gave up everything to care for his wife, the other saved the husband. What does this mean? It means that anyone of us can do extraordinary things.

This is our New Year’s thought: No matter how ordinary we may be, we can still do great things. Mary wrote a Magnificat. In it she said that all generations would call her blessed. How is that possible? How did a young girl that grew up in an insignificant town that is never mention by any of the prophets, with no family credentials, have such an important role in salvation history? A nobody is now magnified in greatness. How does this happen? Mary explains in her hymn: Ordinary people can achieve greatness – nothing is impossible.

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