In his compelling and controversial novel, The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin, imagines how Mary felt while carrying Jesus in her womb:
I know that my own happiness in those first months, when I was with child, felt strange and special, that I lived in a way that was different, that I often stood at the window and looked at the light outside and felt that the new life within me, the second heart beating, fulfilled me beyond anything I had ever imagined. Later I learned that this is how we all prepare ourselves to give birth and to nurture, that it comes from the body itself and makes its way into the spirit (p. 77)
The Magnificat, Mary’s song about Jesus, voices her intuition that the happiness in her would become cosmic joy and that the second heart beating in her was the heart of God’s new life for the world. That life, for a time enclosed in her body, would embrace all the world with healing, restoring, and reconciling love.
Our imaginations soar on the wings of her song. If we hear it well, it will move us to action, because it is a movement song, a freedom song. It isn’t a lullaby; and, because it isn’t, I’ve been wondering about what her lullabies must have been like. When she held him to her breast in the middle of the night, what did she say and sing? Maybe something like this?
You, my child, are God’s child, too.
God’s heart is filled with love for you.
In my arms you sleep tonight.
Always you rest in God’s delight.
The angels sang when I gave you birth.
You are peace for all the earth.
Time and again, Mary whispered to Jesus that he was, not just her boy, but God’s beloved child in whom God took great delight. With her deeds and her words, her spirit and her songs, she prepared him for the profound experience he would have at his baptism. His hear was ready to hear God’s own voice claiming him and reassuring him: “You are my son. I love you. I take great delight in you.” The adult Jesus trusted in God as Abba, Daddy, Tender Father, because Mary was Amma, Mommy, Loving Mother. She had been telling him all along: “You, my child, are God’s child, too. God’s heart is filled with love for you.”
I know that it is a cliché, I know, but it is also deeply true: the greatest gift of Christmas is the life of Mary’s cherished child and God’s beloved son. Jesus is God’s love made flesh and blood, muscle and bone. Jesus he is the heart and soul of divinity wrapped in our essential humanity. Jesus was God’s love born in a Bethlehem manger, walking the dusty streets of Nazareth, roaming the Galilean countryside, and clashing with arrogant, death-dealing power in Jerusalem. In Jesus, the love of God found a human voice, touched broken bodies with human, healing hands, embraced the alienated and excluded in human arms, held children close to a beating, loving human heart, shed human tears, shared human laughter, knew human desires, and died a human death. Through the resurrection and Spirit of Jesus, God continues to lavish love on us. God sings to us with Jesus’ voice: “My heart is filled with love for you.”