Mary’s pain must have been excruciating. For how could a mother watch her son, the supposed Savior of the world, be crucified without feeling that agony herself? In the most excruciating moment of her life, what did Mary remember of the first Christmas, and how did it give her hope? In the most excruciating moments of our lives, what can we remember, and how can those memories give us hope?
As the frenzied crowd shouted around her, “Crucify him!” did she remember a night over thirty years ago? Into the quiet of that night, the bright and fearsome angel Gabriel had burst with a troubling announcement, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
As Pilate sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion, did she remember how she and her cousin Elizabeth had celebrated Gabriel’s announcement and the early days of their pregnancies together?
As Pilate scrawled out the word “King of the Jews” on a makeshift sign, did she remember the angel’s words, “…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33)?
As she watched the life leak out of Jesus, did she wonder how a dying king could reign forever? Did she remember Gabriel’s assurance, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)? Did she remember how easily she had surrendered to God’s plan, voicing her faith, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?
As the Roman soldiers ripped her son’s clothes, did she remember swaddling Jesus in a soft cloth the night she gave birth to him in the stable, because there was “no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:27)?
As Jesus called to her from the cross, “Woman, behold your son,” and pointed to his beloved disciple, John, did she remember gazing into the shining dark eyes of her newborn son, the Savior of the world?
As she heard Jesus cry out, “It is finished,” did she remember the “impossible” beginning of Jesus’ life? Did that memory of the miraculous lead her to wonder if life could yet again emerge from death?
As the soldiers pierced Jesus in the side with a spear, did she suddenly grasp the odd man Simeon’s words, “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35)? Even as she remembered those words, did she recall how she and Joseph had “marveled” at his confirmation that this infant was indeed the Savior (Luke 2:33)?
Of all the scenes that might have flashed before her in this excruciating moment, surely Mary recalled her redemption song, which she had sung in her early pregnancy, and surely it gave her some hope?
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:46, 50-52).
We are not told what went through Mary’s mind in her most excruciating moment. We do know this: Mary was a woman of strong faith, who believed in things she could not see. Mary was a woman of powerful hope, who envisioned God’s redemption of the poor and the powerless. Mary was a woman who could see the cross through the hopeful lens of Christmas.
In our most excruciating moments, we can remember Mary’s hope in the midst of confusion, her faith in the midst of doubt. In our moments of despair, we can find hope by remembering all the true Christmas stories told in Scripture. But we can also remember something Mary did not know as she watched her son die on the cross. We can remember how that story ended three days later. We can remember that Jesus defeated death. We can remember that Jesus rose from the dead. We can remember that our old life is buried with Jesus and that we are raised to an entirely new life through belief in him and in his resurrection.
In our most excruciating moments, we also know the best news, the good news Mary could only guess at when Gabriel told her she would give birth to the Savior—Jesus will one day come back to take us home. When we trudge along in this troubled, fallen world, agonized by our own sin and the sins of others, we can look forward to his return. As the baby Jesus so surprisingly entered this world well over two thousand years ago, the risen Savior will arrive again. “Soon,” Revelation 22:20 tells us. And when he does, all crosses will fall.
Dear friends, if this Christmas season finds you in an excruciating moment, take heart. Remember the impossibly true story of your Savior’s birth. Remember the profound hope of your risen Savior. Look forward to the joyous reunion with your returning Savior. One day, every tear will be wiped away. In that day, with Mary, your soul will magnify the Lord, and your spirit will forever rejoice in God your Savior.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. She is the author of The Waiting Room: 60 Meditations for Finding Peace & Hope in a Health Crisis and the Living Story Bible Study Series (P & R), Elizabeth offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, www.elizabethturnage.com.
Elizabeth has been married to orthopedic surgeon Kip Turnage for 36 years. They enjoy spending time with their children, Kirby and Amy Anne Turnage, Jackie and Matt Roelofs, Mary Elizabeth and Caleb Blake, and Robert Turnage. When they are not working or visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!