It’s Christmas again. Philip and I have readjusted to being back in the States. Well, “adjusted” is a subjective concept. My brother-in-law pointed out that we haven’t been “normal” since we returned from Brazil 5+ years ago. He’s pretty much right. Seeing the world changes your life in so many ways.
Things I miss about Ethiopia: the food, the absence of “stuff”, the relational atmosphere, and the “earthiness” of living there. It’s hard to be here in the States, surrounded by the fuss of Christmas and all the superficial happiness that “stuff” brings when it really won’t satisfy. A few days, a week, a year later, no one remembers what they got, things are broken, used, and become unnecessary clutter.
For the last several years, I've been a Grinch when it comes to Christmas because I really miss some key people in my family. Even though Christmas really is about the birth of Christ, I still find myself affected by circumstances. Knowing my kids will be home soon is bringing back some of the joy in the holiday and helping me think about Christ’s humanity in new ways. This year, I am not constantly cringing at the sound of Christmas carols, I don’t mind singing them in church, and I have even stopped to admire a few Christmas decorations. There is hope for me yet!
This year, with the addition of “mommy” to my title, I've been reflecting on what Mary might have been feeling as she held her little One, Jesus. What was her perspective? Because of her unique conception, virginity, angelic direction, prophecies, and the presence of a star, shepherds, and wisemen surrounding the birth of her Firstborn, she undeniably knew that her Son was special. But how much did she know?
What kind of mother was she? Did she get nervous if Jesus crawled too close to the fire? Or did she know that He had walked through fire before, protecting others (Daniel 3)? Did she count His toes or snuggle with His soft head? Did she know that He had already numbered the very hairs of her own head (Luke 12)? Did she savor every moment, knowing that her time with Him would be cut short? Was she miffed that He spent so much time with others, or did she understand Jesus’ fluid concept of family (Matt 12:46-50)? Was she at all disappointed that Jesus didn't take over the family business of carpentry? Was she confused by His apparent education (John 7)? Or did she realize that He was the Word from the beginning of time (John 1)? Was she intimidated by His perfection? Or did she take pride in His obedience? Did she secretly compare His siblings to her Firstborn and wonder where she went wrong? Did she understand that His sacrifice was the reason He was born? Had she learned to imitate His love for others and to live her life to serve? Did she ever feel comfortable in John’s home after Jesus’ death, or feel like an outsider looking in (John 19)?
History has made Mary into someone she was not. She was not sinless, was not perpetually a virgin, was not immortal, and is not part of a path to God. She was, however, blessed and highly favored by God (Luke 1). She had a relationship with God such that He singled her out to parent His Son. She was the only girl in the history of the world to have this honor. Indeed, she was an extraordinary girl to receive it.
As I think about my little man and my baby girl in Ethiopia right now, all snuggled and sleeping, I miss Jayce’s fuzzy noggin, and Anya’s big eyes. I look forward to having them home and being able to explain the Christmas story in ways that they will understand. I find myself challenged by Mary’s example of mothering and am reminded of the lessons I need to learn from her life:
- Trust God to walk through the fire with my children
- Know that He has the hairs of their head numbered
- Be thankful for the time I do have with them
- Do not dwell on the time I have lost
- Realize that "family" is indeed a fluid concept
- Let go of my preconceived ideals
- Trust God’s training of my children and His work in their lives
- Trust His direction in their lives and acknowledge that He works differently in each life
- Realize that pain in my childrens’ lives is part of the process, and God can use it in ways beyond my comprehension
As I walk with God, trusting Him and living according to His will, I have the privilege to positively impact my children who are made in the image of Him who created them, given to me as a gift for a season, and in turn entrusted back to Him.
Read last year’s Christmas post here