December brings the shorter days and colder weather. Depression runs high. For parents who have lost a child there is another holiday coming where their child will not be present. This is also the celebration of a child coming into the world, which could be more cause for distress. But it is also the story of one of us; another parent who lost a child. We just haven't gotten to that part of the story, but it was foretold.
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, the place of their ancestors, to register for the census decreed by Caesar. While they were there, Mary gave birth to a son in a stable. They were in the stable because the city was crowded with people and there was no room in the inn. Mary wrapped her baby in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Later that day, shepherds came to the stable and were praising God when they found Joseph, Mary, and the baby. They told Joseph and Mary how they had seen angels telling them the Christ has been born in Bethlehem, and they would find him in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths.
A few weeks later, Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to present their son in the temple and offer a sacrifice. While they were there, a man named Simeon came and picked up their son saying, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." God told Simeon he would see the Christ child before he died, and he did. Simeon went on to tell Mary about her son and her future. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
This last line foretells what Mary will feel as she witnesses her son die a criminal's death. A sword piercing my soul is a very accurate description of how I felt after my son, Mark, died. The Greek word used for sword in this instance is only used here and in the Book of Revelation. This was not referencing the common Roman sword. It was describing a large barbaric sword, making the pain even worse. Mary, the mother of Jesus who we celebrate at Christmas, knew the pain we feel. She knows what it is like to lose a child. Next week, we will continue looking at Mary and her journey with Jesus.