Christmas is the time of year that evokes the most memories of my mother. She loved Christmas. Decorations would slowly appear around the house through the month of December. Little nuances of Christmas that were understated, almost hidden, yet heightened our anticipation. For instance, we had some hanging lights in our house – they looked like old-fashioned hanging lanterns. Mom would line the lanterns with Christmas tissue paper so that they would emit a subtle Christmas glow. She liked to put electric candles in the window with just a little bit of green flora around them – an invitation to come in from a frosty outside to a warm and welcoming inside.
Cinnamon would be boiling gently on the stove, infusing the house with its delightful aroma. There seemed to always be a fresh pot of coffee ready for consumption. And a fire would usually be going in the wood-burning stove. As a little kid, the music I would have heard in the background might have been Burl Ives, the Vienna Choir Boys or Barbara Streisand; in later years, Kathleen Battle, Vince Giraldi and Garrison Keillor would have been more the norm.
As kids, we had some pretty idyllic Christmases. As we got older, our Christmases were fraught with more tension as we dealt with teenage troubles or adult issues of all kinds – some serious, some not so serious. There were some Christmases that my mom suffered from the poor choices her children had made. Regardless, she always created a safe and welcoming place for us to come home to. As I now minister to women on the streets and hear of far more horrific childhood experiences, I wish they could have experienced a safe and welcoming place at a time in their childhood as well.
I’ve often wondered what kind of mom I would have been had I had children. I think that those that raise children usually mature very differently. And I think that much of the reason for that is that mothers suffer for their children, and suffering for another brings about maturity and character development in a different way.
There was a mother, over two thousand years ago, that suffered greatly for her son – Mary, mother of Jesus.
She suffered the humiliation of being pregnant and not married (Matthew 1:18-19).
She suffered being away from home when she delivered – and her nursemaid could have been a horse (Luke 2:1-7).
She suffered being told at Jesus’ purification ceremony that Jesus would suffer and that “a sword will pierce [her] own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
She suffered on learning King Herod was hunting her son (Matthew 2:13).
She suffered on having to escape to Egypt to protect Jesus (Matthew 2:14).
She suffered losing him when he was just a boy after one Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-50). (Can you imagine losing your child…and on top of that losing God’s Son??)
She suffered thinking Jesus was out of his mind (Mark 3:21).
She suffered being rejected as his mother (Mark 3:31-35).
She suffered to see him crucified (Matthew 27:45-56).
She suffered when he committed her to the disciple John (John 19:25-27).
She suffered to see him laid in his tomb (Matthew 27:57-61).
She suffered in preparing spices and perfumes for his body (Luke 23:55-56).
She suffered as she approached the tomb to anoint his body (Matthew 28:1).
But when Mary and the women who were with her heard from the angel that Jesus had been resurrected, they were afraid yet filled with joy. In that moment, it was realized that everything they had heard from Jesus while he was alive was true – indeed that he was and is the Son of God. There was a lot of suffering that Mary experienced for her son. Mothers suffer for their children as with love comes suffering, but along the journey, there is great joy as well.