Back in 1983, when I was thirteen years old, the one thing I wanted for Christmas more than anything else in the world was a Cabbage Patch Kid. In particular, I wanted a Cabbage Patch Baby, a girl with a smooth bald head and a round, dimpled face.
Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage that year, even among thirteen-year-olds. By the end of 1983, more than 3 million had been sold (the correct terminology at the time was “adopted”). I remember the lines snaking outside the doors of Toys R Us, the shelves stripped empty minutes after the store opened.
Needless to say, I didn’t get my Cabbage Patch Baby for Christmas that year. No matter where my mom looked, they were always sold out. And this was long before the Internet and the opportunity to bid ten times the original price for one on eBay (not that my parents would have done that…though I certainly would have expected them to).
I was crushed. That Christmas I received plenty of gifts – toys and clothes and stuffed animals and games – but none of it mattered to me. I didn’t really appreciate any of the gifts I received because none was the be-all-and-end-all gift I so desperately desired. I was ungrateful, simply because I had not received the gift.
I realize comparing Jesus to a Cabbage Patch Kid is a bit of a stretch, if not outright sacrilegious, but bear with me for a moment here.
Mary received the ultimate be-all-and-end-all gift when she was blessed with the Son of God. Clearly she was grateful for the blessing of Jesus Christ – her Magnificat, a song of praise and thanksgiving, is a testament to the depth of her gratitude for the ultimate of gifts.
But look closely at the words Mary speaks to Elizabeth, because there is something telling here:
“For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:49)
“He has done great things for me.”
Things. Plural. Mary acknowledges that God had already done great things for her, even before blessing her with the greatest gift.
The Magnificat is a song of thanksgiving for all the gifts God has bestowed upon Mary, not just this one particular blessing, magnificent and spectacular though it was. It’s clear from this statement that she cultivated a continuous spirit of gratitude, even before she was blessed with the ultimate gift as the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ. Mary recognized that God had been good to her all along.
Truth be told, I’m not all that different today from the girl who was crushed by the Cabbage Patch Kid Christmas of 1983. Too often, I’m so caught up in the gift I desire right now, the blessing I think I deserve today, that I neglect the big picture; I fail to appreciate or even remember the myriad blessings God has bestowed on me all along. So focused am I on the one thing, I forget all the great things God has done for me.
I would do well to take a cue from Mary, who praised God all along for all the gifts, big and small, that had been bestowed upon her.