I had two recurring dreams while growing up.
In one: to my horror, a permanent tooth is loose and on the verge of divorcing my smile. I'm one good tug away from a perennial gap-toothed grin. In fact, this dream still occurs at times. What can I say? I care about dental hygiene.
In the second: I learn I am "with child" and the discovery is much to my bewilderment, for I have never been "with a man." I haven't had this dream since getting married because the scenario no longer applies, but prior to marriage, and only in my sleep, I painfully wondered how I would explain this pregnancy to others. I suppose, at the time, it was the closest I could possibly come to relating to the Virgin Mary.
But this year as we celebrate Christ's birth, my husband and I are expecting our first child and I find that I can connect to some of the emotions Mary may have felt in a much more...tangible way. As I long to hold our child, as I dream about our little one's future, as I pray for strength and wisdom in this new role, I believe Mary must have felt the same excitement, trepidation, love, apprehension, and joy that I feel now.
However, there is one major difference in our experiences. Namely that, while my unborn sweetie is already...well, rather wonderful (in my humble, unbiased opinion), my baby is not Christ, the Messiah. For all the ways I can relate to Mary, I can only imagine what it must be like to carry the Savior of mankind in your womb.
I often wonder what exactly Mary knew and understood of her Child and His mission. Soon after the angel visited her, Mary responded to his most glorious news with praise to the Lord in what is often called "the Magnificat." Her song in Luke 1 contains at least 15 quotations from the Old Testament, proving that Mary was a lover of God's Word. I can only assume then that she was familiar with the prophets and their messages of the coming Messiah. Perhaps these messages provided her with a big picture of God's plan, but how would they play out in the details of her life, family, and motherhood?
The book of Luke describes how Mary responded to each new detail, each new chapter of this story, as it unfolded before her.
CHRIST THE LORD
The angel himself told Mary that her son would be called Jesus, Son of the Most High, Son of God. The Holy Spirit would come upon her and the Holy Child's reign would never end. Her cousin Elizabeth confirmed this message by calling Mary the "mother of my Lord." And on that blessed, long-awaited night, while Mary was gently wrapping her newborn in cloths in a stable in Bethlehem, the hosts of heaven were sharing the "good news of great joy for all people" with shepherds in a nearby field: "A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." The shepherds hurried off to find the baby and, when they did, they shared all that the angels had told them and all who heard their story were amazed. Except, that is, for Mary. Luke 2:19 says "But, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Mary was not astonished to hear that her child was the Savior because the angel had told her this months ago. She did, however, treasure and ponder the details of this night, including God's magnificent pronouncement to this group of shepherds of her sweet baby's delivery. Perhaps she treasured this symbol of the Lord's active involvement in this night. Perhaps she treasured His presence, as He surrounded her with renewed strength while simultaneously cuddling close in her arms.
CHRIST THE SACRIFICE
On the eighth day of the little baby's life, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple to present Him to the Lord and to purify themselves, as the Law of Moses required. At the temple, a righteous man named Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God saying, "My eyes have seen your salvation." He continued to Mary, "this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Mary and Joseph "marveled" at what was said about their baby Jesus. That morning, they had brought two doves to the temple to serve as their sacrifice, but the Lord revealed to Mary that her Child would be the ultimate sacrifice for mankind, at great cost and with great suffering to both Savior and mother.
CHRIST ON A MISSION
When Jesus turned twelve, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When they left to return home, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. Mary did not realize they had left him until a day into their journey home. After going back to Jerusalem and searching for three days, they found Jesus in the temple, astonishing the teachers with his questions and understanding. As any mother would, Mary asked her son, "Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you." To which, Christ replied, "Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?" Mary did not immediately understand this statement but, once again, she treasured all these things in her heart. Christ came for a specific purpose - to redeem, reconcile, and offer Himself as our sacrifice and peace. Even at the age of twelve, his life was for this mission - His FatherÕs work.
I have already begun to treasure special moments of motherhood. And as my child grows, I'm sure my heart will become even more full of dear memories. Mary, too, made a habit of treasuring her special moments of motherhood. But her special moments offered her insight into Who her Messiah Child was. Each day with Him, she understood a little more of His character and His purpose. This Christmas, may we do the same. May we marvel and wonder, be amazed and ponder just Who this little Babe is. May we seek to know Him as Mary did and, in so doing, treasure these things in our hearts.