As we approach the Christmas season, thoughts turn not only to Jesus but to his mother, Mary. We see Mary depicted as a young mother, beautiful in the conception and birth of her privileged son. Then, we see Mary looking for the 12-year-old boy, when he was found talking with the temple rabbis. But these images of Mary often are overshadowed by the later image of her as a grieving mother, holding her beloved son after he was taken down from the cross. Much less often, we hear of Mary being there after the ascension, when the disciples chose a new disciple to take Judas’ place.
What can we learn from the totality of Mary’s life? It seems to me that we can reflect on her purity, her willingness to listen, her compassion and courage, and her fidelity.
In Matthew 1 and 2, we learn that Mary was a virgin, open to hearing messages from angel. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, puts it this way in her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Mary’s conception of him was spiritual, for only purity could reflect truth and love, which were plainly incarnate in the good and pure Christ Jesus.” We also can express this spiritual purity, this pure love of Christ.
When we see Mary, as a concerned parent, looking for Jesus when he was found talking with the rabbis (Luke 2), we think of her willingness to listen for guidance. Sometimes as parents, we feel separated from our children and we feel concern for them. But when we listen to God’s direction, as Mary did, we can find what was missing.
At the crucifixion, we see Mary’s compassion for her beloved son and the courage it took to be there for him (John 19). Mary is the only person who witnessed Jesus’ birth, his growth and now his apparent death. Here she is, at a most difficult moment, expressing her motherly love. Perhaps, at a particularly grievous moment in our lives, we can think of Mary’s compassion and courage, to find our own compassion and courage.
The last reference to Mary takes place after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, where Mary is among those blessed to see the disciples choosing a new disciple (Acts 1). So she witnessed the beginning of Christianity. Mary’s fidelity to Christ is evident. It was important for her so see her son’s life work carried on. We can learn from this to look forward, to expect the continuity of good and to be faithful to God’s design.
In this joyous season of birth, we can see the importance of recognizing Mary’s contribution. Mary’s life was an illustration of purity, a willingness to listen, compassion and courage even in difficult times, and fidelity to God’s plan.