As my family and I count down to Christmas, we are trying to keep a watchful eye on our crèche, lest our preparations get us out of control and into commercialism. Perhaps it is a lofty goal but rather than getting lost in a shopping mall, we want to get lost in contemplation of the Holy Family, the statues of Mary and Joseph holding protectively on to each other and their son Jesus, sleeping so peacefully, so effortlessly, in their arms.
Jesus isn’t the only babe in our house. In the room next to me, there is another – this one our one-year-old, Joseph, who is not sleeping peacefully or effortlessly.
This Advent, Joseph gave up on his daytime naps. There should be no connection between the liturgical calendar and my son’s sleep patterns so this is, perhaps, only coincidence. Still, at the end of November, Joseph decided he shall not miss a minute of the day. This would be fine, except for the obvious signs of his tiredness – a large yawn, rubbing his eyes, or the – ahem – crankiness. And as I rock him, and sing to him, and hold him, and ask him to please, please, please fall asleep, I wonder… was Jesus a fussy baby?
Reverence kicks in and I think, “Oh, certainly not. He’s the Son of God.” But we can’t gloss over the fact that Jesus was a baby and he was a toddler. He didn’t leave the manger to get lost in the temple. In between, there was a growing, learning, curious little boy. So all those moments we so cherish with our children – their giggles and new discoveries and outstretched arms – Mary experienced those, too. But so must she have also experienced the teething and illnesses and long days.
We are blessed, particularly at Christmas, with such beautiful images of Mary and the Christ Child. When I look at our nativity scene, I really can get lost in Mary’s gaze unto her son. I imagine love, joy, and pride bursting from her heart. I imagine fear, uncertainty, and anxiety playing in her mind. And I imagine God, speaking to her soft words of encouragement, and then strong words when she needs to hear it again.
And when I am lost in my own gaze upon my son – sleeping or not – I realize my imaginings are, in fact, reality. I feel those things. My heart bursts with love. I know anxiety. I hear God speak those words to me. This Advent, the relationship between Mary and Jesus, Mother and Son, has moved beyond a crèche… to become real.
Because there are no coincidences, after all.