During Advent, I am reading Luke’s Gospel, one chapter per day, which will take me through the whole story of Jesus just in time for Christmas Day. Two mothers have been introduced in the first two chapters- Elizabeth and Mary. One old, one young: both given unexpected messages of pregnancy, messages that changed history.
Elizabeth and Zechariah had given up hope of children- they were “past it.” So they believed!
Mary wasn’t married yet.
If you don’t know the details, look it up- better still, read “Luke” for yourself. The adventure of parenthood came with sorrow as well as joy. Both boys were miraculous fulfilments of the ancient longings of Israel- John lived in the power and spirit on one of the greatest prophets, Elijah. Jesus embodied the fullness of God incarnate, fulfilling the prophetic hope of a Saviour-King. God was directly intervening in human history, redeeming and reconciling humanity to the Holy Trinity, God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s what Christmas means! God is still intervening: acting out of love.
One part of our understanding of God (that is sometimes neglected) is that we recognise the Lord as Mother too. Isaiah pointed to this: “I will comfort you… as a mother comforts her child.” (Isaiah 66)
The perfect modelling of fatherhood AND motherhood is found in the character and actions of God. My wife and I are childless, and have had to come to terms with that. We both loved and respected our parents, and will always appreciate their care. We have friends who experienced both good and bad parenting- let’s face it, no parents are perfect. Some parents are a bad memory. Others weren’t around, or left in a traumatic way. Some were lovely. Childhood shapes us, for better or worse.
Dealing with our experience of childlessness, parents and parenting can be painful. Rather than dismiss that, and reject the Bible’s references to God as Father/Mother, perhaps we can look to the ideal that it represents?
Every person needs affection, care, comfort, protection: LOVE.
Christmas tells us that God is truly LOVE. As father, He takes decisive action to rescue and nurture us- Jesus incarnate brings the fullness of God-ness, now heard in a baby-cry. As mother, God offers the intimacy of tenderness and nurture.
We’re all rather stressed at the moment. I hope we will embrace Christmas for the right reasons this year, make the most of it, and help others to find love and comfort.
The PERFECT mother offers comfort. Thanks, Mum. (Since Jesus told us we can call God our Abba, Dad, I reckon we can also call God our Mum- without having an argument about gender and theology!)
“I will comfort you… as a mother comforts her child.”