Thinking about those who struggle at Christmas time, because the “Christmas Ideal” is a far cry from the reality so many people endure, I am reminded of my own mother, of mothers in general and of our Lord’s mother.
I’m reminded of my own mother because after my father left her, I know she felt the burden for my brother and I, to see us follow the Lord. And, with many thanks for her faithful prayers, we both have done so. I’m sure there were many lonely nights for her and I’m sure there have been many subsequent Christmases when she has struggled between grieving for what she had lost and thanking God for His gifts.
I’m reminded of mothers in general, especialy mothers who raise their children with no husband present, with a husband physically present but really “checked out”, with an abusive husband, and who knows what other circumstances amount to the same loneliness? We in “neo-Reformed” circles talk a lot about a call to men to be men, lead, man-up and be the fathers and husbands we are called to be. But as Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile reminds us in this blog post (“Encouragement for Mothers Whose Husbands Don’t Attend Church“), this emphasis, though much needed, can be a discouragement to struggling mothers in general.
I’m reminded of our Lord’s mother because her world was rocked by scandal, her fiancee believed the worst of her, and yet she trusted in the God who broke through her lonely circumstances with His marvelous grace. She probably never saw the day when all those who had known her finally believed her story that God had made her pregnant by a miracle. She probably bore the brunt of gossip for the rest of her life. But God gave her back her husband by His gracious intervention. God gave her a confidnant and consolation in her cousin, Elizabeth. God gave her His own Son to be her son. And she knew from before His birth that He was the Saviour the world was waiting for.
Christmas time is not about the ideal tree or feast or presents or It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas time is about what a bunch of ancient shepherds told to our Lord’s mother and adoptive father on the first Christmas night: “…They made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). Namely, that this baby boy is the heir of Israel’s throne, God’s annointed King, Saviour of the world and that in the giving of this Son of God and Son of Man, God’s favour rests on those whom God calls to Himself. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
Whatever circumstances we face, no matter how discouraged we are, in spite of any hardship–especially hardships of our own making–Christmas is about the power of God’s grace to break through our grey skies and shine the light of His peace through the Good News about His Son. Against the statistics, both my mother’s sons have given their lives to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Against the statistics, the gossip that had spread about Mary herself was untrue; the miracle was true, no matter how unlikely! Against the statistics, mothers who struggle this Christmas season need trust, not in themselves or their efforts, but in the power of God that is undeserved, that is good, that is sent, because of Christmas, to those who need it most.
So this Christmas, if you are struggling and discouraged, treasure things things and ponder the Gospel in your heart. I know my mother will. And I know I will.