Throughout the Christmas Season, we tend to focus on humility more than at other times of the year. We turn our attention to the humility of the Christ child, who chose to be born in a stable in Bethlehem. The God of the universe was born amid smells of barnyard animals and laid to rest in a manger – a simple feeding trough. Reflecting on the Nativity scene, we may resolve to imitate this humility in our own lives. As soon as the Christmas Season passes, however, we are faced with the cares and challenges of day-to-day life that remind us how difficult it is to be truly humble.
Humility involves recognizing God as the source of goodness in our lives. How often do we thank God for the many wonderful gifts that we have been given? Oftentimes, we are tempted to take these blessings for granted, or to think that we are solely responsible for our successes in life. While it is true that we can do our part by using our talents wisely, we should remember that God is the one who gave us those talents. Scripture reminds us, “Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build.” (Psalm 127:1) Our dedication and hard work would be nothing without God, and we should remember to give Him credit.
To be humble, we must have a proper understanding of our relationship to God. We are finite, limited and weak. God is infinite, unlimited and all-powerful. Put simply, God is the Creator and we are the creatures. When we forget this relationship, we fall into pride. We forget how reliant we are upon God’s grace and love. Our achievements are a reflection of God’s glory. We owe honor to Him for our successes because it is He who gave us our gifts and talents and guides us in the proper use of them.
The Divine Infant teaches us humility. But there is another key figure in the Nativity who also offers us an example of what it means to be humble. The “yes” of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation paved the path to the Nativity. Mary is a powerful witness of the virtue of humility. She was chosen from among all women who have ever lived to bear the Savior of the world. She alone was preserved from original sin, from the very moment of her conception. She was picked as the new Eve who would accept God rather than reject Him. Mary’s role as the Mother of God is clearly one of great honor.
Yet when her cousin Elizabeth praised her faith, Mary responded with a psalm of praise to God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) Mary acknowledged that she would be forever honored for her special role and her willingness to be Christ’s mother. Yet she was not prideful. Rather, she humbly gave thanks to God, giving Him the praise while reinforcing her own role and a lowly handmaid.
We should join Mary in praising God. We should realize that our strength and hope lie in Him. We are weak and powerless without Him, but we can do all things through Him. When we adopt this honest perspective, our lives are freed from the burden of pride. We need not become bogged down by things that are insignificant in the big picture of our lives. We need not feel as though we bear the burden of doing everything on our own. Rather, we can allow God to take control, trusting in His all-powerful wisdom and love.
As we enter the New Year, let us turn to Christ and Mary as our examples of humility. Let us strive to imitate this humility that will give us the freedom to trust our lives to the guidance of God.