But the spirit of Christmas, the way people smile and give gifts and offer a little bit more grace during the holidays, can it last longer than 30 days?
Putting away all the fluff and flurry of Christmas causes me to pause and contemplate. The nativity sets placed around our house in December will go back in boxes to be stored for another eleven months. And I wonder about Mary. What was it like that very first Christmas and her holding her first-born Son?
Like any mother who has just given birth, I imagine she was tired and slept when He slept. What was the temperature in that cave? Did she snuggle her Baby close to her to keep Him safe and warm? Did she look at Joseph and wonder at this man who had taken her on a dream, choosing to believe rather than to discard, taking on her shame and reproach and wearing it like honor?
And all that unexpected company coming unannounced. Those shepherds were not the cream of Bethlehem’s crop, more like the outcasts who smelled too much like sheep. Why, she wasn’t prepared for visitors, hadn’t picked up the place or made preparations for extra food.
When they left them, the shepherds just blabbed it to everyone they saw, this strange sight, a new baby being cradled in a feed trough. All those who heard about it, did they run to see for themselves, crowding into the space and taking Mary’s breath away?
What was she thinking?
Did she rewind the words of the angel Gabriel who called her favored one and said she would be blessed among women. Her present situation didn’t seem very favored. And her being blessed? Why, she’d been the talk of the town all right, but the words being used were not “blessed.”
She knew, though, like no one else knew, that this Child was a miracle Baby. How else could she have become pregnant? Of this she was sure, that God had indeed visited her. When questions swirled, she must have traced that day in her memory.
What was she thinking then?
At the time of the Baby’s dedication, Mary and Joseph came upon this man Simeon who just seemed to know things, things like the child’s destiny. His words must have sounded unusual on this day of their common duty to the law. “Salvation. Light to the Gentiles. Glory to Israel.”
And then came Simeon’s blessing and his words pointedly to Mary: “This child is destined to make many fall and many rise in Israel and to set up a standard which many will attack—for he will expose the secret thoughts of many hearts. And for you … your very soul will be pierced by a sword.”
What was she thinking?
I cannot even imagine the thoughts of this chosen-among-women-mother.
We mothers dream of good things for our children, not fallings and risings and attacks and exposing things. Certainly we don’t think about swords piercing our own souls.
We have our dreams but not for pain.
Yet, sometimes it happens, that piercing that comes with disappointment, disillusion, and disheartening events we never planned on for our children.
Mary was a mother. A mother something like me with emotions and thoughts familiar to womankind. What made her experience so different was that she had been entrusted with God’s own Son. The only way she would be up to the task was the promise contained in the child’s own name. Immanuel, God’s gracious presence.
And after all, isn’t that what all mothers need?