When my oldest daughter was born, I spent a lot of time thinking about Mary. From my antiseptic hospital room, I wondered about the hygiene of the stable. With my husband snuggled up close, I wondered how she felt about Joseph and their still incomplete marriage. With the nurse explaining the details of feeding my baby, I wondered if Joseph found a midwife or even an experienced woman from the local synagogue to show her how to get along. As I learned to wrap my baby up tight, I thought about Mary swaddling the Savior and tucking him in not to a tiny cradle but a manager of hay.
Like me, you may find that your life situations don’t parallel Mary’s. Yet I think this woman, chosen to be the mother of the Son of God, sets us a powerful example of what it means to be a godly mother today.
- Mary sought out another Mom. In a crisis mothers of faith desperately need the hope, shelter and strength of the believing mothers around them. Mary fled after her talk with the angel down to spend some weeks with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary and Elizabeth had very different lives. Elizabeth had long been married; Mary was single. Elizabeth was a very old mother and Mary a very young one. Elizabeth was bearing a baby that the whole community would celebrate and May one that they would frown on. Yet they found joy together: both were women who had had powerful encounters with God, who were expecting miracle babies, who women who sought God’s face and His character in word and song. As we look around our churches and friendships, we often feel that the women around us are our competition and judges. We isolate ourselves from the strength we need. Despite their differences the love, hospitality, and fellowship of Elizabeth and Mary pave the way for us to be loved and accepted by our sisters
- Mary was at her core, a believer. When faced with an Angel, Mary was afraid. When faced with a the news that she would be the virgin mother of the messiah all Israel had been waiting for with bated breath, she declared that she was God’s servant. When Elizabeth declares “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:45), Mary breaks out in song. Where did the strength and grace to adjust and readjust come from? Her faith. Motherhood is full of changes. From the first shifts in our bodies as we become pregnant straight through the stages of babies, toddlers, kids, tweens, and teens, nothing ever stays the same. And that doesn’t account for the moves, job changes, and other shifts our lives bring us! It is only in our faith that we have the strength like Mary to face the “new normal” with grace.
- Mary was undaunted. At 9 months pregnant she walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When her husband was unable to find a place to stay she delivered her first child in a small barn. With a 2 year old in tow, she and Jospeh became political refugees one angelic step ahead of Herod’s axemen. As moms we often find ourselves in less than ideal circumstances. Deliveries that don’t go as planned. Babies with colic. Unemployment. Financial crisis. We may be tempted to throw our hands in the air and give up. But this is just the time that we have to remain like Mary undaunted.
- Mary was righteous. When the days for purification were complete, Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem and went to the temple. We know they weren’t wealthy; they didn’t have a full sacrifice just the impoverished substitute-2 little pigeons. But they knew what the law said and they did it. Years later they brought their burgeoning family to Jerusalem each year for the Passover. Being a mom of littles makes it harder and in many ways less rewarding to go to church (as I am sure it was hard for Mary to get to the temple). It makes the other things we want to do like spend time reading our Bibles, praying and doing good deeds harder too. But Mary lays a path out for us of what it means to be a righteous mom.
- Mary bore up under sorrow and fear. During that visit to the temple, Mary and Joseph were met by an aging prophet. His name was Simeon and he waited his entire life for this moment. Taking the baby in his arms, he blesses God and then turning to Mary he says this, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). Her Son wouldn’t just be Israel’s Savior, He would be Israel’s stumbling block. He wouldn’t just bring her joy, but great sorrow. As moms sometimes we face sorrow and fear. Babies born too early. Teens out too late. Young adults gone too soon. But like Mary we have to go on in faith despite our fear. We must continue in His service despite our sorrow.
- Mary made mistakes. Do you remember that time when Mary and Joseph accidentally lost the Son of God? Or that time that Jesus rebuked the two of them for not realizing He had to be in His Father’s house? Or when she and Jesus’ brothers came and try to drag him back home thinking He’d gone too far and lost His mind (Mark 3:21)? We make mistakes as moms. Despite our best efforts we look back at a day, a week, a year and know that we blew it. We weren’t patient or kind. We hurt little hearts or even devastated adult relationships. Is there any redeeming our sin-sick motherhood? Indeed there is. Despite whatever mistakes Mary made as a mom, our Savior looked down from the cross and loved her. He assigned one of his closest disciples to stand in His place as eldest son to care for her for the rest of her life. She was honored and beloved by her son.
Motherhood is hard. So when God needed a mother for His only Son, He looked down from heaven and chose the perfect woman a righteous and redeemed woman. She endured the unexpected, the sorrowful, the difficult and she held her head up. She knew that she could count on God in every circumstance and even when she made mistakes, she was redeemed. May God bless us all to mothers like Mary.