Last December, I was pregnant with my first child and I was thrilled to be a mother. While I expected pregnancy would be a physical challenge, I was caught off guard by fear and anxiety for him, whether miscarriage, health issues, or accidents: I imagined it all. I had never experienced such concern for another person and this new emotional state bewildered me.
While fear can be healthy (survival depends on wisdom), anxiety is worse than useless, it’s dangerous. I had no desire to be a controlling mother (often a root of fear) or ruled by fear and constantly need my family to keep me sane. During intrusive thoughts and battles with anxiety, I often thought of Mary, a woman in an ordinary time and place, chosen to bear and mother the Son of God, Jesus. Her reaction to the angel’s wild and wondrous proclamation of the incarnation was surprise, yes, but also shows strength and resilience. Later in the Gospel story found in Luke 2:15-20, while everyone marveled at the exciting events and then went about their business, Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I've read these passages many times over the years but this time, because I was a mother, Mary truly surprised and encouraged me.
Mary is a contemplative, a mother who allows mystery to play with delight, embrace paradox and reflect true confidence in God. Now that I’m a mother, Mary is my example for prayer and contemplation. She is a face behind the call to be anxious for nothing and place your hope in God.
I’ve been in New Zealand for the past two weeks and I visited a café in Auckland called Crave. There, a mural of Mary hangs above the bar where people line up to be fed. I wondered how many notice her, and then, how many remember her after they receive their meal. Is she dismissed or does she linger in their imagination as one who sees God in their midst?
The Advent season is a time of arrival: looking back to the first coming of the Messiah and the future anticipation of His second coming. In my experience, Mary is often a footnote in the Christmas story in Evangelical Christmas messages. But Mary is our guide, the source for early gospel content, and in art as in the Scriptures, ponders the mysteries with God as a child. Mary is an example of practicing presence: God is with us now. How am I keeping time with Emmanuel, God with us? Or for a better word, abiding with God as a mother with the tyranny of work and events of life? This Advent season I have the wonderful burden of a six-month-old who keeps me going and while time is short, I will spend time with Mary and entertain mysteries. I welcome you to join me.