One of my greatest joys at this time of year is reflecting back upon the magical Christmases from my childhood. The gift of the holiday season experienced as a child is like none other. Perhaps that is why, as adults, we go to such incredible lengths to recreate that long ago held magic we experienced through the eyes of our younger selves.
Today, in an otherwise uneventful aisle at the local grocery store, I ran across this timeless toy. I had no idea they still made these baby bottles, which appear to hold real milk. As an adult, I see how unrealistic they appear. Yet., seeing this familiar toy packaged and hanging in a center aisle at the local store brought back so many precious memories.
As an only child, I had a very healthy appetite for make-believe.
I had no choice but to entertain myself. And I went to great lengths to do just that!
I had several baby dolls. They each had a name, a story, and a uniquely distinct personality, known only to me, their young mother. I had not only the magical vanishing milk bottle, but the smaller vanishing orange juice bottle, as well. There is no accounting for the number of hours I spent in my bedroom, at church, or playing at friends’ homes, feeding my babies with those cheap, plastic bottles.
As I stood, lost in my trip down memory lane, I smiled to myself, thinking how deceiving these bottles actually are. While they appear full, there is really nothing of substance inside. Just an empty cavity, which, if held at the correct angle, appears full.
As a child, I could not tell the difference. I actually thought there was some kind of magic milky substance (that miraculously never spoiled) inside the bottle which provided the necessary sustenance for my very living (to me) baby dolls.
How many folks are out there today, walking around, appearing perfectly put-together, organized, happy, excited, and merry, when the reality is, on the inside, they feel as empty as this cheap plastic baby bottle that produced hours of great pleasure in my imaginative youth?
At this time of year, I cannot help but relate to Mary, if only for the fact that I am a mother.
I often wonder what Mary thought, how she felt, and what she understood about the reality of her situation. Nativity scenes appear in every store and outside many fast-food franchises in our society. We had a living nativity at my church growing up in Monett, Missouri. I always longed to be the angel on top of the stable. Playing the role of Mary was a close second.
Is the picture-perfect, calm, put-together, humble, sweet-natured, agreeable young woman we see depicted in those nativity scenes an accurate representation of Mary?
Did she have morning sickness and cravings? Were her hormones out of whack? Did she have trouble sleeping with a constant need to use the bathroom yet never feeling quite relieved from the growing pressure on her bladder?
More importantly, I wonder what went through her mind. She knew she was carrying the Son of God. How does a person process the weight of that earthly assignment?
Was she excited? Did she feel special, chosen, or confused as to why God should choose her when there must have been many other valid options? Was she fearful? I am sure she felt all of these things, as well as a plethora of other emotions, known only in the depths of her heart, and shared with her Lord in Heaven.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.“luke 2:17 (NIV)
God chose Mary for a reason. Was it because she was plain? Simple? A good girl with a non-controversial background that God wanted to use in a big way to tell a big story?
As I sit reflecting upon the cheap baby bottle that appears one way, but exists in another, I wonder if the same could be said of Mary.
Does she appear to us today as the picture perfect, holier than thou Mother of Christ? Or, is there a reality that Mary was just as overwhelmed, fearful, messed up, and needy of grace (which only her unborn son could fulfill), as the rest of us?
God specializes in using ordinary folks to tell extraordinary stories. The Bible is chalked full of these examples. Some heartbreaking, some hilarious, some just plain unbelievable, yet still very true.
The minister at the church I attend recently did a sermon entitled, ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ He talked about the well-known popular holiday classic of the same name and how many Biblical scholars assume she did know the exact accountabilities of the role she played as Jesus’ earthly mother.
Yet, her exact reactions, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ways of processing are not fully known to us today.
In much the same way I pretended those cheap, plastic, man-made baby bottles were real as a child, the feeling of make-believe is one I wish I could re-visit as an adult. The ability to pretend desires into existence. To believe something so strongly that there was no doubt of its reality in my innocently obedient childlike mind. We are not meant to know everything at every particular phase of life. God reveals that which we are equipped to handle in His perfect timing.
I may not know the ins and outs of Mary’s struggle and internal dialogue at the time she carried the Christ child; however, the simplicity, authenticity, and beauty of the Mary I see reflected in the common nativities of our world today is one I am blessed to know.
The Mary that was calm.
The Mary that didn’t stress out.
The Mary that simply wanted to please her Heavenly Father and did not let the minuscule events of the day get in the way of His much bigger plan.
That is the Mary I see when I look at the nativity.
That is the Mary I wish to emulate, not only at this time of year, but each and every day I am blessed to walk this earth.