Mary’s hopes and dreams for her firstborn son were overshadowed by prophecy, but she never forgot who held the future for Jesus.
Last year I wrote about the difficulties facing childless parents at Christmas, when everything seems to focus on ‘family’. This year we will be celebrating our own family ‘miracle’: a son finally granted to us, expected shortly before Christmas Day.
While we give great thanks to God for the medical breakthroughs that made this possible, and for God’s protection over us during a testing and traumatic loss of his twin sister Diana at 5 months, we also are full of wonder and questions about the future.
What will our son be like? Whose nose will he have? Will he be sporty or musical? What sort of life can we forge for him? How do we teach him to be a good man? Will he commit his life to the Lord? Will he make a difference for good on this earth?
A great destiny
But amid preparations for his birth, we also have to focus our minds on what we are really celebrating at Christmas time. It’s more than our own miracle; it’s the miraculous intervention of God’s salvation plan. It’s about the Son of God, sent to us at a certain point in history, to be born of a chosen woman, Mary, more than 2,000 years ago.
I wonder what Mary thought, all those years ago as she and Joseph prepared themselves for their son. She had already been told by the angel what kind of a man he would be. Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1, verses 31-33, make clear her son was to have a destiny far beyond any normal baby.
Did she wonder what he would look like? Did she imagine how his upbringing and life would be? I’m certain that, while she believed the word that Gabriel spoke to her, she had no idea that the little life kicking inside her would one day be expended upon a Roman cross.
From hope to fear
When the shepherds rushed to that crowded stable to see the newborn Jesus, and they told her what the angelic host had declared, Mary ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. The parents must have been filled with such joy and wonder.
Then Joseph and Mary were told in the temple, just eight days after Jesus’ birth, by Simeon that ‘a sword would pierce her own heart also’ (Luke 2:35). Did this fill her with fear for this tiny life, so helpless in her arms? Did she start to question what the future might bring?
When the Magi came to visit, perhaps some two years later, and presented their gifts, what went through her mind? Surely, she could not have expected the fearful warning given to her husband, to take the child and flee to Egypt, for King Herod was seeking to kill him.
From such an auspicious start, heralded by angels, worshipped by shepherds and wise men, to the terror of exile and those prophecies overshadowing her, it would have been reasonable for Mary and Joseph to wonder what kind of life would be in store for their little boy.
Treasure in the heart
No mother should anticipate the worst for their children; no mother expects to be forced into exile or to be told someone wants to kill their firstborn son. And, humanly speaking, Mary’s natural reaction would have been to do everything in her power to protect Jesus against the worst this world had to offer.
And yet we know she ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. She ‘pondered’ on the prophecies they had been told. She put her trust in the one who had given her this child to nurture and care for. While she could not control the future, nor create for this helpless newborn the kind of future any parent wants for their children, she knew who held the future and she trusted him.
As she said to the angel Gabriel, ‘I am the servant of the Lord; may his Word be fulfilled’ (Luke 2:28). Mary was just a young woman, perhaps only a young teenager, yet her faith in the God of Israel was immense.
The God who had given her this child would also give Joseph and Mary the strength they needed to raise the young boy into manhood. God would give her the strength to stay at her son’s side as he was nailed to the cross. It was not the future she may have planned, but it was the future God had planned.
God holds the future
So as my husband and I look forward to our little miracle, and to all the hopes and expectations and fears and trials that the coming years will bring, we would do well to remember that other mother at Christmas time, that young woman 2,000 years ago, whose arms were filled with the ‘unspeakable riches of Christ’, in the form of God’s greatest gift to mankind.
May all of us be encouraged by the faith, courage and loving obedience of Mary and Joseph, always remembering God alone knows what the future may bring. As the old chorus goes, ‘I know who holds the future, and he keeps me in his hands’. And may this be true not just at Christmas, but throughout the months and years ahead.
Simoney Kyriakou is news editor of Evangelical Times and an editor of FT Adviser