Exhortation, Third Advent
December 11, 2005

Mothering an infant is a thankless task. First, you have to carry a large, heavy pouch wherever you go for a number of months. Then comes the agony of labor. The momentary joy of birth is immediately followed by the prolonged inconvenience of nursing, changing diapers, comforting an infant at all hours day and night. Your child may feel gratitude, and feel it deeply, but he can’t tell you, and by the time he’s able to speak he has forgotten everything you did for him. Mothering an infant is literally a thankless vocation.

Mary too bore the discomfort of carrying a baby; suffering the agony of birth; she endured the inconvenience of nursing and changing diapers and holding an infant crying late at night. And this is the way God chose to redeem the world, and to fulfill all his promises to Abraham. The gospel story gives motherhood the highest profile, because the story of the world’s redemption begins with a mother.

When Paul says that women are saved by “the childbearing,” he is, I believe, talking about the birth Jesus, the Seed of the Woman born to crush the serpent’s head. As Eve fell into sin by believing the serpent, so Mary became the mother of the Seed by believing the angel, and by her faithful childbearing we are all saved.

Unique as it was, Mary’s motherhood is a pattern for all Christian mothers, and great encouragement. During the constant round of meals, diapers, dressing, carrying, holding, training, and generally caring for an utterly helpless human being, remember the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

When Mary heard the angel’s announcement, she didn’t shrink back because of the inconvenience and pain of motherhood; she thought of the joy set before her. She responded with faith: “Behold the servant of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your Word.” This is the response that God expects not only from mothers called to bear and raise children, but of all believers. Mary’s example challenges and exposes our unbelief and discontent, and calls us to confess our sins.

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