Christmases differ from year to year. Some are full of sweet delight, swimming in colours and scents of true Christmas, with a perfect tree at home, a charming Nativity at the church, everyone happy and healthy, children striving to find the first star at the window, yet never losing sight of a colourful array of small but well-chosen presents under the tree.
On such an easy Christmas, not a single cake is burned, no one coughs or limps, and all faces around the family table are smiling, ready for both for the Christmas Eve supper, and Midnight Mass and Holy Communion. Everyone has been to the Reconciliation service and all know the priorities of the occasion. Baby Jesus is not a minor addition to the feast and it is obvious to everyone that the Holy Family holds the first place at the table.
On such happy occasions, you feel as if you were one of the angels singing "hallelujah," dancing above the stable in bright, cool air, playing with the rays of the star and glorifying the Lord, saviour of all.
Then there are other Christmases, tough ones. A friend told me of hers and mine was not much better.
CNS PHOTO | CROSIERS
'Do whatever he tells you.'
First, the Christmas season was stained with the blood of the innocent Newtown children, as if the devil himself wanted to remind us that Herod was living still. Next, it was dimmed by various illnesses and deaths among friends. Finally, it was broken by news of a divorce of close friends, whom we had known as devout Christians.
Blow after blow, wave of darkness after darkness.
As if such a difficult Christmas needed a physical manifestation, the plastic spruce kept leaning, with only about a tenth of its pre-lit lights working, the cheesecake sat on half an inch of charcoal and the pierogi made in too much haste, split to the last one, revealing the stuffing.
Spiritual uneasiness crept upon strained faces around the Christmas table. No charm of the past happy, easy Christmases seemed to work. Bible reading and prayer were replaced with a hasty "best wishes to all." The traditional sign of peace before supper was weak at best, or discreetly avoided at the worst.
Is it surprising that, despite family traditions and previous good intentions, no one attended Midnight Mass?
On a Christmas like this, you feel less kinship with the angels and shepherds and more with the frustrated, tired inhabitants of that Bethlehem inn who turned Mary and Joseph out. All those inhabitants remembered later was sleeping on a flea-ridden dirty floor, tucked beside other angry, smelly travellers, cursing their fate, Caesar Augustus and his ordinances, and the innkeeper as well.
They never saw the star and no angels woke them up. No joy and hope entered their hearts. Nothing changed them.
Why do I ponder on past Christmases when the reading today is about the wedding at Cana? Because, especially in view of the devastation caused by demonic activity, as well as by human sins and weaknesses, this wedding feels like we have been given a second chance. It is a second chance with Mary and through Mary.
"The star is gone," she says, "but look, Jesus is here. The Three Kings have left, each to his own country and you may have missed them, too – but Jesus is here, still waiting for you."
So we can catch up with Jesus at Cana, during a wedding. Jesus is here with his mother on a family visit.
Mary is very present and active at Cana. When she hears that wine – a symbol of love and joy – is missing, she turns to Jesus. As a woman and a guest herself, she could have sat back and commiserated with the hosts, shamed by their poverty or short-sightedness.
Instead, she forces Jesus' hand, almost against his will. Jesus protests: "My hour has not yet come." Mary, as if she had not heard him, says to the servers: "Do whatever he tells you." The servers provide the water. Jesus has it tasted by the wedding coordinator – the water has become excellent wine.
Without Mary's total faith in Jesus' divinity, and her love and compassion for the people surrounding her, without the servers' blind faith and their back-breaking work of fetching a huge amount of water, there would have been no miracle.
At Cana, we have a smooth interaction of faith and love flowing between God and men. By the will of God, Mary, the purest and humblest woman ever born, became a mediatrix – a mediator/coordinator.
When you have made a perfect mess of everything, when you face internal and external darkness, when you feel sin and confusion have overrun your world, remember Mary at the wedding at Cana.
Contrary to the faulty and proud human logic, we should entrust our families and ourselves to her, knowing that with her leading us, we will never miss Jesus and we will do whatever he tells us. Only then can miracles happen, miracles that we all need badly.