There was a television show in the early 1980s called Bosom Buddies. It starred Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks. Hanks played a loud and obnoxious character on this sitcom that was cancelled after only two seasons. No one, and I mean no one, could have ever predicted that Tom Hanks would go on to become one of the most acclaimed and successful actors of our time – one who would give us incredible performances in movies like Castaway, Saving Private Ryan and, of course, Forrest Gump.
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Paul McCartney still does not know how to read music. He only agreed to play the bass guitar because John and George refused. And now, he is the most successful songwriter of all time… and if you google the best bassists ever, he is always close to the top of every list.
Simone Biles had a very difficult childhood, spending time in a number of different foster homes. She has won 25 major championships and is now widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time.
Tom Brady… I don’t need to finish this one, do I? We know that story.
Or how about the young couple with a wild and rocky beginning to their relationship and who were basically destitute and homeless… yet who went on to raise a child who would change the course of history?
Greatness is a strange thing. You can’t always see it coming and it can certainly emerge from the most unexpected of places.
For all these examples I mentioned, you can trace how they went from humble beginnings to their respective greatness. Each is a unique story, with ups and downs and key defining moments in their lives. From despair, from challenge, from unexceptional-ness… on to great achievement, impact, and recognition. The path to greatness can be a strange and unexpected one indeed.
But we’re in the home stretch now… just one week until Christmas Day. Our Gospel for today closes the season of Advent with a story about Joseph’s decision. At the beginning of this season, we marked the special occasion of Mary’s decision.
Both Mary and Joseph said yes. They accepted the Christ child into their lives. Neither knew what that would mean for them, what it could require, how it might change their lives… yet, they trusted. They trusted, despite the unknown path ahead of them. They said yes.
I won’t ever win an Academy Award or write a number one song. I’ll never play in a Super Bowl or land a Triple Double in the floor exercise. These are forms of greatness I won’t experience.
But I can try to do what Joseph and Mary did. I can say yes to accepting Christ into my life. I can say yes.
Are you being called right now to say yes in your life?
Are you being asked to surrender to his will?
Are you in need of trusting more?
We are all called to live as saints, to convert the world, to shine a light into dark places. We are called to love and to forgive with mercy. To see Christ in the poor and the suffering amongst us.
In short, we are called to become great.
But life actually is like a box of chocolates. We never do know what we’re going to get. One thing is for sure though – there isn’t anything worthwhile we will ever do, there is no path forward, there is no moment in our lives that will matter one single bit without one simple truth. Despite our own humble beginnings, our challenges, our beautiful unexceptional-ness, we are called to say yes. Just as Mary did and just as Joseph did.
This is where the whole story began. And this is where our story begins.
So… let’s be great…