When I was ten, I played Mary in my school nativity; and I’ve remembered the words of my solo ever since (twenty two years at the last count!)
“Lord as you’ve spoken, let it be, may your will be known through me”
Just a few years younger than it’s believed Mary herself was when she was tasked with becoming Jesus’ Mum, I found her reaction astounding. It is certainly not how I would have reacted to the news that I was going to become pregnant outside of marriage (which alone could have seen me sentenced to death). What Mary understood, was that being chosen to carry the Son of God, of being ‘greatly favoured’ was to be feared and embraced. She understood that her position was one of gravity and grace, The Magnificat, her song shows us that and she trusted in who she knew God to be.
I wonder if it’s meant to remind us of Hannah’s prayer for Samuel, another song of bittersweet joy. Both women understood that mothering their sons would involve losing them – and the same is true for anyone who mothers today, whether that be through parenting or the nurturing of young faith and life.
Mothering and Advent have been closely intertwined in my life; my husband and I both lost a pregnancy and brought home a baby in those dark fairy lit days of the year; the grief and joy of those times magnified by the season.
I have often thought about what Mary’s birth was like; it was probably full of pain and fear, because birthing is almost always a breaking. Whether or not it’s physical child birth, it’s a breaking of an old way of life; perhaps beginning to parent god-children, going through the adoption process or seeing an idea planted in the dark break through to reality. There will be breaking, there will be pain and yet through it God will bring forth something new.
We see the birthing and breaking again when they present Jesus at the Temple. They are greeted by an elderly couple, Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting for the Messiah their whole lives. But theirs isn’t a message of congratulation, it’s another warning that this child who has been born will be like no other. Simeon tells Mary that “a sword will pierce her own soul, too” which is surely the kind of prophecy no mother wants to hear about her newborn, that the child she has borne will turn the whole world upside down.
Our lives will see birthing and breaking, none more so than in our faith. We will experience the revelation of divine love through Jesus – but this love will break our hearts for the lost.
And yet if we dare to allow ourselves to be broken before God, we will see how his love for each one of us revealed through Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection as we wait with baited breath for his return and our recreation.