What would it be like to raise the son of God? Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be Mary or Joseph and be entrusted with the keeping of the God of heaven and earth in a tiny mortal body? As I’ve read and reread the wonderful story of the nativity and the little we know about the growing years of Jesus Christ, I’ve admired Mary and Joseph’s love, insight and fortitude.
The miraculous story of the first Christmas and Mary and Joseph’s family teach us some wonderful things about parenting. Our kids may not be Jesus of Nazareth whose birth was foretold from the beginning of time, but these lessons and traits of Mary and Joseph can help us to be better parents to all of our children!
1. Rejoice in the miracle of a child (Luke 1:47):
You can imagine the surprise it would be to hear the announcement that you are going to give birth when everything in this world suggests that is impossible. A virgin birth, that’s absurd! Mary, not only believed and dealt with the declaration, but rejoiced!
There is nothing as miraculous as the creation and birth of new life. Anyone who has held a newborn baby in their arms has experienced the wonder and awe of a two day old grin. Whether your baby was planned or a surprise, they will always be a miracle. Even in the times that try your patience, find joy in your child.
2. Nothing is impossible with God. Look to Him and trust Him (Like 1:37):
When the angel came to Mary to announce the heavenly birth, Mary asked, “How shall this be?” Sometimes we have similar questions. We wonder how we can help our children make good choices, grow into happy and functional adults and to reach their full potential. Maybe we wonder how they will face bullies, drugs, sex and other cruelties of the world without becoming cynical and angry themselves. For every worry or anxiety we experience as a parent, remember the angel Gabriel’s reply, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” We can pray and look to God for strength and guidance to bless and direct our children’s lives. Be pensive and thoughtful. Ask questions and be still enough inside and outside to receive answers to those questions. Just as Mary and Joseph listened to heavenly direction, we too can listen to the still small voice directing us in our daily interactions with our children.
3. Love and Support each other (Matt 1:19-25):
At the time of Mary and Joseph, adultery was a crime punishable by death. When Mary was found “with child,” not only could Joseph have legally broken the espousal and condemned her, but he would have been under pressure to condemn her publicly by stoning her. Joseph did not do this. He did not condemn her, and when the angel had brought him word of the virgin birth he believed, and willingly took Mary to be his wife. Mary and Joseph went against tradition and risked their reputations within their culture. They stood together for the good of each other and the good of their child. We too can learn to stand together as husband and wife. The relationship between a mother and father is one of the most important and influential relationships in the life of a child. Whether or not you are married to your child’s other parent, how you treat and interact with one another will have powerful influence on how they relate to you and others.
4. Learn from your children (Luke 2:40,52)
The scripture tells us that Jesus grew and learned and increased in wisdom and stature just as all children do. Although the scriptures don’t tell us a lot about this time in the life of Jesus, I’ve always wondered want wonderful lessons he taught Mary and Joseph as he grew. They surely taught him some of the basics and were there to enjoy his first step and first word but what lessons did he teach them? I know that the innocence of my own children and the simplicity with which they see the world has given me insight and taught me so many things. Remember to listen to and look for the insights they share. They help us be more creative, more compassionate and more patient. They teach us what it means to love unconditionally and how to dream.
5. Even the most perfect child can scare you and be frustrating at times (Luke 2: 41-50):
When Jesus was twelve years old the bible tells us Mary and Joseph went on a little trip and played out every parent’s worst fear when traveling. They lost their son and figured out several miles down the road that he was missing. When they returned, Jesus was sitting in the temple with the doctors and teachers. I can just picture the look on their faces. The words in the King James version of the bible say, “they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” In other words, “What in the world were you thinking? You just about gave me a heart attack! Your Dad and I have been worried sick.” I can imagine that Mary came to understand why Jesus was there, but she probably still thought, “He could have at least told me where he was going to be.” The point is, even the son of God did things that scared, worried and frustrated his mother and adoptive earthly father. Our children will do the same. The important thing to remember is although we become worried and frustrated, that does not mean that they are always wrong or that it gives license for anger, cruelty or punishment. The very things that can upset us might actually be positive if we will stop and see them for what they really are.
6. Be just and merciful (Matt 1: 19):
Joseph was described as a just man but the very verse that describes him this way also showed his mercy for Mary, who he loved. He was not willing to condemn her or to make a public example of her despite the traditional legal system at the time suggesting what was “just.” There are far too many men of anger, men who are punitive and cruel. The world needs more husbands and fathers that are just but merciful, kind and gentle. Families need mothers and fathers that can deliver “just” consequences (not punishment) without yelling, anger or abuse.
On this Christmas day, take a moment to contemplate these lessons taught by Mary and Joseph and their impact on our families and everyday lives. Think of the wonderful gifts you have to give your children, the ones that are not wrapped up under the tree. As Mary did, let us “keep all these things, ponder them in our hearts.” (Luke 2:19)
Merry Christmas everyone!
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