Do you remember the first time you held your baby? The precious child you awaited for so long, now finally in your arms? The miracle of it all, the pure joy? This is the lens in which I view Mary at Advent – the anticipation and amazement of the birth of her son. Magnified by the knowledge that he was to be the Savior, Prince of Peace, Light of the World. I can scarcely imagine the feelings she must have had. Perhaps the lyrics of the famous Christmas carol Silent Night express it best “…Holy infant so tender and mild, …Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing alleluia…” I cry every time I hear that song, and since having my own children, I can no longer sing the words, emotion wells up so strongly.
This love. A mother’s love for her newborn child. This is the Mary I have come to know. I am certainly not a theologian, I’m not even Catholic – born and raised Presbyterian, Mary was mentioned at Christmas, but I never really gave her much thought. Through what I can only describe as Divine gifts, I have come to know Mary in a profound way. This Advent season, she is especially on my heart. She represents the love of a mother for her child, the faith it takes to trust you are doing your best as you teach, guide, and care for him.
For a bit of historical context, Mary was a peasant. This means life was extremely hard, likely involving labor intensive work ten hours a day simply to care for her family – think walking long distances simply to get water. While I believe being a mother is hard work at any point in history, this takes exhaustion to a new level. Imagine no Starbucks run when you need a pick me up, I say that jokingly, of course, but we are talking extreme conditions to survive, much less thrive and raise the Son of God.
Mary also lived at a time of rampant violence and oppression, yet she had faith, believing God would bring light from the darkness. To live with such faith, it is something we mothers do daily. We pray for the safety of our children, for their health, for the world around them. We love them fully and have faith that each day will allow us to be the best parent we can be. This renewed understanding and respect for the life and context of Mary has brought me a much deeper connection. Again, not necessarily from a theological perspective, but rather my own personal experiences; I can connect to her mother to mother, woman to woman. To see her journey through this perspective makes Christmas come alive for me.
So I share these Advent Reflections today, the story of a mother’s love for her child. A young mother, full of faith, believing in something bigger than herself. A story of connection and love – may we remember, no matter where we are right now; perhaps in the busy days of gift wrapping and baking, or perhaps in days of loneliness and despair – love endures. The love of God endures and is available to us all.
*the image is of a beloved work of art at my local art museum, I visit it often and love Mary’s expression – such motherly love. Madonna and Child, School of Lorenzo do Credi, Florence, 1494