26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In an episode of The Simpsons Marge and Homer take a vacation without their kids (or try to) and while sitting poolside they overhear a young couple talking about how badly they want to have children, and how wonderful life will be as parents; when Marge and Homer hear this they just start laughing hysterically! Of course, as the parents of three kids they know that truth: that having kids is hard work…even with two parents! As single parents we know that it can be even more of a challenge when we have to raise our kids without a partner (although to be honest, there can be times when it is easier not to have to check-out every decision we make with someone else).
It is because we are doing most of the ‘heavy lifting’ of raising our children that it can be easy for us to forget the joys that come from being parents, as they can easily get lost in the midst of the day to day challenges we face: we can get tired, frustrated and very cynical as things with our children do not always go the way we would like…or had hoped. Of course most of us knew that raising a child would not be a walk in the park, and we expected (or were warned about) the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the worries over illnesses, diapers, potty-training, etc., but one of the first major blows to our vision of parenthood may have been when we became single parents, and realized that the game had changed forever!
Then as our children grew, some of us have had to face greater challenges, over friends, school, inappropriate or even dangerous behaviors…that led to encounters with law enforcement and the judicial system. Many of us have also had to deal with financial and career issues that arose from our commitment to our children.
To know such struggle frustration and fear can all feel terribly unfair, especially after having sacrificed so much for the sake of our children; but while these are feelings are understandable they can overshadow the joy of being a parent, the same joy that Mary feels in today’s gospel reading, when told that not only will she have a child, but that this child would be blessed, and go on to greatness!
So, in the midst of our busy lives, at this hectic time of year, when we may be feeling particularly stressed out, how do we recapture the real joy of having children?
Actually now is a perfect time of year to remember the joy of being a parent…as we are approaching the celebration of Jesus’ birth! All during Advent, we have been getting ready for the coming of Christ into the world…we have lit the Advent Wreath and sung seasonal hymns, many have even had the ‘fun’ of participating in a Christmas (or Holiday) program at church or school, and for those with younger children, we have watched their excitement mount as the count-down continued!
Now, as the time is nearly here, we can look towards joining Mary, Joseph, and their little baby in the manger…once just a dark, smelly stable, now transformed into a warm and welcoming place for new life to be born, for the light to come into the world at last; and as we gaze down at the newborn in the hay, we can remember the joy and beauty we felt when our children came into the world…and also be reminded of how blessed we truly are to have children to love, nurture, worry over and to care for!
And how truly blessed we are to have their love in our lives as well!
Like Mary’s child, our children are also blessed, also loved by God and have also come to transform the world…and they are a cause for celebration and rejoicing, as they too carry the light of God’s love in our often dark and smelly world…and as they share this light together our world becomes more warm and welcoming, and the Kingdom of God draws closer to a reality in our world!
Let Us Pray:
God, thank you for our children and all that comes along with them: the sleepless nights, the mess, sacrifice, worry, frustration, fear…and the great joy that come along with being a parent! Please help us to take time this Christmas to be grateful for our children and to join in Mary’s song of praise and thanksgiving. Help us to carry this light of Christ, as it is only by shining the light of your that we can see our way clear through all that can darken our lives to the beauty and joy of being a parent…and what a great gift that is!