There are many joys to preparing for and welcoming a new baby into a family. There are also many challenges as well. Candace and I prepared for several months awaiting the birth of our son. Those days were filled with joy, fear and hope.
We talked with many people in our lives about what would come next. From family, friends and our doctors, we knew life would become challenging, yet we knew what was coming.
Mary didn’t have that luxury. Instead the young, unwed Nazarite was visited by the angel Gabriel who gave her the news that she would give birth to a son, Jesus, who will be great and called the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1: 31-32).
The angel told her “You who are highly favored.” Other translations read “Full of grace.” I have to agree with this translation both theologically and personally, as a new parent. Mary must have been full of grace to receive such news and to respond in such an obedient and humble way by saying to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant”. “May your word to me be fulfilled”. Then the angel left her.
As Candace and I learn to be parents, we have much wisdom to gain from mother Mary. She responded to the unexpected challenges in life with such grace. When we are up at 2AM with our baby, Zechariah, I pray we’ll remember Mary’s words “I am the Lord’s servant.” May we be found with grace.
It’s impossible to understand at times why our little baby cries and screams, sometimes late at night. I’m sure Mary and Joseph experienced similar moments late at night with the Middle Eastern stars shining so bright above the Holy Family. I don’t think babies have changed that much in 2,000 years. We face the same challenges they faced as well. Knowing this brings some comfort in our late nights.
We have a framed painting hanging in our home of the “Sistine Madonna” by Raphael. The original painting was created in 1512 for the basilica church of the Benedictine Monastery of San Sisto in Piacenza in Italy. In this painting, Raphael depicts mother Mary gently wrapping her arms around the upright Christ child. Our replica was given to us by Candace’s late grandparents. It is the same painting that hung in their home for many years.
There are times, late at night or during the day, that little Zechariah appears to be staring at this painting. I wonder what he’s thinking. Is he thinking “This is like my mom holding me”? I wonder if he’s thinking “This woman is full of grace”? Either way, Mary seems to comfort Zechariah in a way we can’t explain. I know it was the same for baby Jesus as well. I’m sure the Christ child looked into the face of his mother Mary, full of grace, and was thankful for this faithful servant.
As we continue in Advent and prepare for Christmas, let me offer this Benediction:
May we follow the way of Mary, who was full of grace, in offering ourselves as faithful and obedient servants in the face of life’s challenges and joys. Amen.