Christmas Consolation

Miriam Hogan, O.C.D.

Christmas especially celebrates the love of a mother and child in the persons of Mary and Jesus. It also reminds us that all children are created to share in God’s precious gift of love.

I have always been consoled by the fact that in Mary we have offered Jesus what is best in human life. The pure and precious love of a mother. She who held him close against her own heart invites us to embrace the joy and new life of Christ that comes to us in every child. For every child is a child of God and every child reveals to us some small part of Christ’s Incarnation. In her time, Mary held the hope of Israel and the hope of the entire world in her hands. Likewise today, new mothers hold the hope of our future generations in their hands and they nurture us all into the future when they care for their little ones. How true is the old saying that “the hand the rocks the cradle, rules the world!”

Perhaps now however, even more than in past ages, we need to ponder again what kind of women make the best mothers? Or to put the question more in a religious context, we can ask who is called to this vocation of motherhood? Further, do we value and recognize and appreciate the unique sacredness of this calling?

Looking at the example of our own mothers with gratitude and love, we can appreciate their dedication and their devotion to us and all of their children. In particular I remember that our Mother always took time for us whether it was to examine a tiny scratch or commiserate about a lost love. She was present and encouraging especially during the fragile times in life. Certainly our Lady’s example of standing beneath the cross affirms this in Christ’s life.

Given the above affirmations, we can ask some rather disturbing questions about cultural attitudes that are in the process of changing. For example, should we be encouraging young mothers to go back to school, while they have young children at home? How can they be present if they are away from the house all day and come home tired and still focused on their work?

Along this same vein of reasoning we might even ask some modern day questions: Was Mary educated? Did she have her Doctorate/Masters/ Bachelors? Did she have the right genetic code to guarantee the health and long life of the infant? (Never mind that Christ died at 33) Would she be able to provide for her child’s, material needs and be able to send him to the proper schools so that he would be able to advance in his religious career? Did she have the right connections and know the proper people? Was she married?

A Young Woman

Simply or crudely put, Mary was a young woman who conceived out of wedlock. So perhaps we need to reframe the questions more in the context of our own experience and in the light of the Christmas gospel. Instead, of inquiring about education, social status and wealth we might ask: Is she loving, strong yet tender, courageous, faithful, prayerful, steadfast, encouraging, Joyful, truthful, gentle, peaceful, able to receive as well as give, consoling, protective, enabling, life affirming, inclusive of others, playful, attentive, nourishing , able to hold a baby close and yet to let go so that the young person may grow into their own unique personality?

The new life of any baby is a precious and sacred mystery. Perhaps in our own time we need to once again recapture the reverence and the awe that this mystery of new life can inspire. The birth of a child can be seen as God’s promise that His spirit continues to abide among us in its freshness and promise for our future. In other words, we do not know what God has in mind for the little persons that have been put into our care.

A Charming Story

History provides us with many stories of children that would not have been expected to make much difference in the world. We have for example the charming story of Abraham Lincoln and his stepmother.

Briefly stated, Sarah was a widow with three children and even though she did have a cabin, she was in debt. One day she met a man who said he was a widower and a man of means and he asked her to marry him. She traveled with him by carriage to his farm which, contrary to what he said, was badly run down. She met his two children who were ragged and unkempt. Her eyes fell especially on the 10 year old boy who looked shy and pitiful. By all rights she could have called off the marriage and headed back to her own home, but she said to her new husband, “all right for the sake of the boy I will stay.” It was her choice, and as President Lincoln later explained her presence made all the difference in his life.

Christmas time helps remind us that as Mary chose the boy that was entrusted to her care, she encourages us and entrusts him into our care. Thanks be to God for such a mother! His and Ours…!

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