I am reading the Christmas story differently as a mom this year. Maybe it’s because my children are no longer little, when it’s easy to kiss away tears and put band-aids on the boo boos, when they fit snugly in my arms, and I can hold them until they are happy again.
My son is stepping into adulthood at a time when the future seems more uncertain than ever. Thankfully he’s full of optimism, energy, and excitement for what’s ahead, but that doesn’t always stop this mama’s heart from quaking at the thought of what he may face in the very near future.
My daughters are becoming young women and are navigating some real stuff. They are starting to see their own faults and failings for what they really are—as well as the failings of others (including mine). They are facing insecurities, self-doubt, regrets, and griefs of their own. And I cannot stop any of these things. While I can listen, while I can offer advice (which is not always welcome), I cannot kiss the boo boos away. I cannot fix their pain.
Parents everywhere, I know you hear me. My road (so far) is easy compared to so many of yours. And the hardest part of all is knowing I have failed my kids in ways I never wanted to.
So I’m reading Luke 2 again, that familiar Christmas passage I have studied hundreds of times. I’m reading the part how the glory of the Lord appears to the shepherds, and they first go to see the baby and then tell everyone around them what has happened. I keep wondering, why does God choose these shepherds to appear to? Why not anyone else? And why, when they go around telling what they have seen and heard, does everyone else just “marvel” but not go to see for themselves if this is true?
I don’t have answers for all of that, but here’s what struck me this time. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
I think one reason God sends those shepherds is just for Mary. I don’t know what they say to her or what they look like, but they come fresh from the glory of the Lord and the presence of angels. I’m sure they are radiant. It must have been such a powerful reminder to a weary first-time mama who has just given birth in the dark and the dust of a strange town, far from home. God is with you, Mary. And this is part of the plan.
And surely it is no accident that the rest of Luke 2 details a series of encounters to remind Mary of the hope she now holds in her arms. When she takes him to the temple, God brings Simeon, an old man who has been waiting for this very moment, as well as Anna, an 84-year-old prayer warrior. Simeon gives Mary a warning: “a sword will pierce through your own soul.” How many of us mamas can relate to that feeling? But they also tell her that Jesus is our salvation, a light and a glory, the fulfillment of promise, a blessing. Words to hold onto.
And then that same chapter 2 of Luke skips ahead 12 years. Luke sums up the little years with one verse: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” Those years must have been a joy.
And then he’s 12. Middle school age. And even sinless Jesus causes his parents tremendous worry when he stays behind in the temple, so caught up in discussing his Father’s business that he doesn’t think about informing his mom about where he is. When they finally find him, he gives them a glimpse of the Man he is becoming: “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Duh, mom!)
The rest of Jesus’ childhood flies by in a two-verse blur, and suddenly we see again: “His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.”
What am I getting at here? Well, I think Luke 2 is, at least partly, a chapter for mamas. God knows what is coming for Mary, the soul-piercing journey that begins in the very next chapter, when her son begins his role of becoming the most sought-after healer and the most hated disturber of the peace. So he gives her some lights to hang onto in the dark valley, promises that she can pull up and remember on the blackest days. She treasures these things in her heart because she believes the One who promised them. She believes there is a purpose and a plan and that all the pain is leading to the brightest hope of all. And she is right.
God does this for each of us, I think, and if we are paying attention, we can grab onto these lights of promise and hang onto them on the dark days. I’m guessing there are many, many moments when Mary did not feel equal to the task of being mom to the Son of God. But from the very beginning, God gave her a treasure store of promises to cling to, lights to guide her path.
Weary mamas, I encourage you to sit with Jesus and ask him for the promises he has for you. Sit still with him and ponder the words. Believe them. Store them up for the dark days, and remember the brightest light is coming. You too were chosen for just this child, for just this season, and you are enough.