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A Parent Reflects on Jesus' Parents

When I was first married, we would pull out a traditional Italian crèche scene and I would set up the shepherds, the animals, three kings and then the family: Jesus in his manger with Joseph and Mary standing on either side of him.  I had always put Joseph and Mary on either side of Jesus because that’s the way it is usually depicted in artwork and in all of the Nativity-Lorenzo-Costastationary, non-moveable nativities I had seen.  Besides, that’s the way my parents always set it up when I was a child.

For many long years in our early marriage, my husband I were unable to have a child.  Year after year, we would delight with our friends and family as one after another announced their pregnancies.  We were always thrilled for them, but at home we shared a deep and private grief that we were unable to be parents.

Finally, after eight years of marriage, my husband and I welcomed a baby girl into our lives early in December. That’s when I changed how I set up the nativity.

As I un-wrapped Mary and Joseph that first year of parenthood, I knew they would never stand on either side of the crib, looking at each other across the crib.  Instinctively, I placed them side by side, shoulders touching. 

I don’t think new parents stand separately, looking at their child.  I think they stand next to each other, holding each other, looking down on the crib, stunned by the miracle in front of them and sharing in their incredible joy. 

Besides, I suspect Mary and Joseph were probably as sleepless as any new parents.  They probably had to hold each other up a little just to stay awake.

Nativity - G. CuffiaOn that long ago night in the stable, I imagine that this young couple clung to each other with love.   Their lives were changed in the same way that every new parent’s life is changed.  Joy and anxiety are mingled together as parents of newborns realize that their lives have a new focus, a new responsibility and a new future to imagine.

But for this special couple, there was also the knowledge that something was different about their child and that it came from God in a special way.  Mary and Joseph had to say Yes to God in a deeper way than the rest of us.  Their child, Jesus, wasn’t just their child, but one that belonged to all of us.  He came into this world to save us, to be with us and to love us. 
 
Their Yes, their acceptance of this remarkable child, the child who came to save us, is the reason why in a number of nativity scenes all over our house, Mary and Joseph stand next to each other, always touching shoulders.  Their arms don’t move, but I know they are holding on to each other for dear life and thanking God for this joy-filled gift of the child that they share in front of them.

-- Maureen McCann Waldron
Creighton University Online Ministries

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