Today we celebrate newness as a new year begins. In particular, in our liturgy, we celebrate the role of Mary as the Mother of God incarnate, the mother of Jesus Christ, a woman chosen by God to help bring something very new into our world. When Mary said “yes” to the angel’s message from God that Mary was invited to give birth to a son, she really brought something extraordinary and new into our world. Certainly that is something for us to celebrate.
In a certain sense, when Mary gave birth to the Child Jesus a new era began, and for many in the world today that era is designated in our calendars in various ways. For many it is called the Christian Era. Often the years are called “Year of the Lord” with the initial ”A.D.” (Anno Domini) used to designate them as such. So, as we also celebrate the beginning of a New Year today, we can be thankful that Mary, the Mother of God, helped to us a certain newness of years. Mary is perhaps celebrating in heaven, in company with her Son, this New Year’s Day of 2013 A.D.
Our Gospel for this day brings us back to that day so many centuries ago when Mary’s child was just beginning to get used to the light of our world. The newborn baby, probably not yet aware of anything other than his baby hunger and thirst, was the center of wonder, not only of Mary and Joseph, but also of a group of adoring shepherds. The gospel tells us that these men rushed to the scene and on arriving they were so fascinated by the child. But did they have any insight into just who this Child was? Did they have even the least idea of how the mother gave birth to this baby, and just how special this baby was? They were lost in wonder, and although the gospel record tells us that they “understood what had been told them” by the angels, their understanding was probably not more than the fact that this child was somehow special.
But for the mother Mary together with Joseph, there was more to ponder. Following the usual custom of the time, on the eighth day (the first “octave of Christmas”) the child was circumcised and given the name Jesus, the name that the Lord’s messenger had told them to give the child. That name tells us not only who the child is but also what the child is, the one who is to save the people from their sins. As the name was being given to the child, Joseph must have remembered the dream he had when he was assured that Mary was graced by the Holy Spirit to be his wife and the mother of this special child, and that the name Jesus was to be the name of the Child. For so many of us today that name, that Holy Name, is so very special. This is the name that St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians says is “the name above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Devotion to this name is kept alive by the members of the Holy Name Society in many parts of the world. St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that it was a divine inspiration that confirmed his insistence that the religious order he founded would be called the Society of Jesus, over the objections of many at the time.
And so it is today that we celebrate the newness that Mary, the Mother of God, brought into our world when Jesus was born. We recall that day when the child was given the holy name given by the angel to indicate that this child, the son of Mary, was the one who, as its savior, would make the world new.
On this New Year’s Day of the year 2012 A.D. we can, together with Mary the Mother of God, treasure in our hearts so many signs of God’s gracious love for us.