Nick Fawcett has written a wonderful meditation from Mary on the reality of the birth of God’s child, and the challenges Mary, and Joseph face. To introduce this he writes “The 2 February is known in the Church Year as Candlemas. It’s a day on which Christians remember how the aged Simeon exulted as the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem – a moment he’d looked forward to for so long. Yet if, on the one hand, he was overcome by joy as he welcomed the Christ-child as ‘a light to the nations’, on the other, a dark shadow crossed the moment, Simeon warning of pain and suffering ahead, both for Jesus and for his mother Mary.
In the following meditation, taken from Nick Fawcett’s book No Ordinary Man (Book 2), published in 2000, we consider what Mary must have made of the rollercoaster of emotions she’d been through over that past year, and, above all, of Simeon’s enigmatic words concerning light and shadow.”
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord . . . Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’’ Luke 2:22, 25-35
The meditation of Mary, mother of Jesus
I had mixed feelings, to tell the truth,
not just before the birth but afterwards too.
Does that surprise you?
It did me.
I thought I’d be ecstatic once the child was born,
over the moon –
isn’t that how we mums are meant to feel?
He was my firstborn after all,
a beautiful bouncing boy,
so why wasn’t I bursting with happiness?
Well, I was, of course,
part of me anyway,
yet there was so much I didn’t understand,
and so many things to take the edge off the moment.
There was Joseph for a start.
Oh, he was supportive – don’t think I’m complaining –
once he got over the shock of the pregnancy anyway,
and you can hardly blame him if that took a while, can you?
But, imagined or not, I always felt there was a shadow in his eyes
when he looked at Jesus,
as if to say, ‘What really happened?’
And then there were those visits after the birth –
first the shepherds,
then those strangers from the East with their lavish gifts.
It was gratifying, obviously,
not every child gets that sort of attention, after all.
But what made them come? – that’s what I keep asking.
What did their homage signify?
Don’t think I’m ungrateful,
but I really wish sometimes Jesus could have been an ordinary child,
and the three of us left to enjoy our happiness –
simply the joy of being together.
But any last chance of that disappeared after those words of Simeon,
that curious warning of his about the future.
I’ve tried not to let it get to me,
but it’s preyed on my mind ever since,
always that fear within me of tragedy round the corner.
So, you see, I had mixed feelings,
and I still do have, as much now as ever.
I want to rejoice,
to enjoy my boy while I still have him.
I want to count my blessings and thank God for all he’s given.
But there’s been a price to pay already,
and deep within I’ve a horrible feeling
that this business of being God’s servant,
of accepting his will and serving his kingdom,
involves a far greater cost than I’d ever begun to imagine,
and a price I’d rather not pay.
alongside the blessings of discipleship
there is always also the cost –
sacrifices that will inevitably be asked of us,
demands that we inevitably must face,
responsibilities that we must inevitably accept.
Hard though it is to accept, let alone understand,
we realise there can be no joy without sorrow,
no pleasure without pain,
no life without death.
Yet we know also that, however great the price may be,
the rewards of service far outweigh it,
for you promise all who serve you
lasting blessings that will never fail;
treasure in heaven that nothing shall ever destroy.
Help us, then, to offer all that is asked of us,
until finally we rejoice in everything you hold in store
for us and all your people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.