No mother imagines how fast her child will grow up. When he’s that tiny, you hardly understand, though you may think, “One day, this soft, tender, delicate human infant will be a man, with passions and convictions and responsibilities.” No, when he isn’t even big enough to wrap his fingers around your thumb, he’s just yours.
She thought the same thing. I mean, who wouldn’t? After you carry an 8-pound baby in your abdomen for nine months, after his every movement affects you, you feel every time he kicks or squirms, it feels like he’s part of you. And then you spend hours and hours in pain, just praying, “God, get this baby out of me!” and you struggle and suffer… you are in agony…finally he is expelled from your body in blood and mucus. The nurse wipes him off and lays him on your flattened belly and you turn his face to suck your sore nipple, and you know that this baby belongs to you. He is your flesh and blood.
Through the years you change his diapers, nurse him, tend to him when he is sick or injured, and stay up with him when he can’t sleep. Why wouldn’t you? He’s your son. And you love him with everything that’s in you.
You watch him grow up. You guide him, you instruct him, you try your hardest to demonstrate what it is to be good and moral, hoping beyond all things that your best might be enough. He becomes a complicated, thinking individual. Sometimes you hardly recognize the little boy who needed you for every little scrape and splinter. One day you are forced to acknowledge that he is indeed a man. You’ve awaited and dreaded this moment for so long. But you’re proud of him. He’s your son.
But she never had that. He was never hers, not from day one. In fact, he wasn’t hers from day negative 1000. On behalf of Israel, Isaiah said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The angel told the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” He was never hers, just hers, only hers.
My oft absent maternal instinct kicked in recently and I am struck with sympathy for Mary. I'm not the type that loves every single child who crosses my path, but I know that when motherhood comes upon me, I will love my children because they are my own. My own to love and teach and watch grow up.
I don’t know if Mary knew that or suspected that 33 years later she would be weeping inconsolably because her child, her baby boy was brutally murdered like a criminal. He was hated and scorned and mocked. This sweetheart about whom devout men and women prophesied and angels sang was her own darling son—now up on a rough wooden post with dirty nails in His flesh.
If she guessed that at all, it would have been the most unbearable thing on earth to hold such a perfect child (because “every baby is the sweetest and the best”) in her own tired arms. The agony of childbirth was nothing to the devastation of watching as he slowly dies before your own eyes. And you can do nothing but watch. And as you watch, you remember your baby’s rosy cheeks, his little feet and tiny toenails, his bright eyes and toothless smile, his velvety hair, and his grasping hands…now they’re dripping with blood. Who would have, could have thought? Not even she imagined that this would happen to her baby.
Lyrics from my two favorite Christmas songs:
“Precious miracle of life, Child of Love, gift of hope, the gift of life from the Father above. And you were made for all mankind, but you will always be mine…”
“Oh Mary, Joseph rest your eyes. Try not to think of the ending. World full of empty, He will die…but tonight He is still just a child. …Have you cursed at the wind? Have you cried to the heavens? Have you fought with this mercy you don’t understand …And did the stars shine much brighter that night, when you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life? And did the mystery keep you awake, or was the sound of His little heart too much to take?”
Isaiah 9:1 "But there will be no gloom for she who was in agony."
Jesus Christ, Our Celibate Lord
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