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"Handing baby over" by Nathan Ahearne (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2019 Nathan Ahearne. All rights reserved.[/caption] Most portrayals of the Nativity scene feature Mary holding Jesus, surrounded by shepherds, animals and a passive Joseph lurking in the back row. Artists traditionally convey a surreal calmness and composition that could only be achieved by the Holy Family who had traveled long dusty roads and given birth in a dirty barn. My own experiences of childbirth pales in comparison and speaks more of trauma and chaos than serenity and perfect choreography. Perhaps artists have been more preoccupied with the divine nature of a God who became incarnate, but I suspect this disconnect from the rawness of humanity does a disservice to the experience of child birth. There is something very real about this version of the Nativity which speaks to Mary’s human nature and also thrusts Joseph into center stage as capable and involved father. I can recall my own experience of holding my children for the first time, precious little gifts all wrapped up and completely dependent on us. After watching my wife do all the heavy lifting for nine months, it was a strange feeling to finally be carrying our child for the first time. A mixture of profound joy, reality and responsibility. Whilst I’d like to say that my parenting reflects something of Saint Joseph’s, the reality is that I have spent some time in the back row of the nativity and probably left my wife wondering if she could lean on me. I remember the sheer terror of being left alone with our eldest child who was still transferring to a bottle and was not very settled. We survived and I took an important step towards the ‘front row’ of the nativity scene, allowing my wife to have 20 minutes out of the house. As we move to the end of another year filled with the busyness of family life, we might feel like Mary, ready for a few days of rest. But how good are we at recognizing our need to hand over baby? We carry the needs of our children, spouse, friends, colleagues and some may feel a sense of guilt or anxiety in putting these down, even for just a few hours. We might wonder if those we hand over to can care for our "babies" the same way that we can. I am slowly learning through my prayer life and retreats that handing over my work, fears and worry to God is an essential part of being a Christian and acknowledging that I’m really just handing back what is already His. During the busiest part of his public ministry, Jesus invited his disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Jesus understood the importance of rest, despite the throngs of people who watched them retreat and ran ahead to find them. This story reminds me of my wife and I trying to retreat to the lounge room, to escape our four little people who inevitably track us down. I have no doubt that Mary is a mother who is full of Grace, but I don’t confuse this special anointing with having supernatural powers to overcome the exhaustion, pain and emotional fatigue of childbirth. I prefer to believe in a Mother of God who was able to lean on Joseph for support and occasionally hung up her supermum cape. Did Mary wonder if Joseph was up to the challenge of being a "Theotokos" God-bearer, or did she put these concerns aside to be still and rest for a while? What have you brought to life this year, is it time to hand it over and enjoy some rest?
Copyright 2019 Nathan Ahearne