The whole holiday season, my sons (4-year-old twins and a 6-year-old) were excited not only about Christmas gifts, but also about sharing all their newfound knowledge from school on baby Jesus and his birth. In the car throughout the month of December, they excitedly shared with me everything they learned like: “Mommy, did you know when Jesus was born shepherds visited him? And kings brought him gifts?” Each time they shared, I would nod and smile and try to add my own tidbit: “Yes, honey, and Jesus was born in a stable.” These conversations were short, as are little boys’ attention spans, but I held tight to these moments each time they occurred.
Recently, I found myself reflecting on these conversations, and I realized something about them — not once did my sons mention anything about Mary. And not once did I stop to ask them about her. How did we forget about Mary?
I find that sometimes it is easy to end one year and begin another forgetting about Mary. Particularly because she is so quiet in the Gospels during the birth of our Lord. We see her most in Luke, wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes and lying him in a manger. Luke also reminds us that “Mary kept all these things reflecting on them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19). As it often is with a new birth, the main focus is on the baby itself. Particularly because this baby is the Son of God.
Mary, the Mother of God, is an essential piece of the story of Christmas. And to help us not forget about Mary, the Church in her wisdom, places the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1 during the Octave of Christmas. The Church highlights the significance of her role by inviting us to start out the new year, every year, with Mary.
One of my most vivid memories growing up was our New Year’s Eve traditions. My parents were devoted to spending holidays like this as a family. I cannot recall a single New Year’s Eve where the six of us were not together celebrating. And every time, without fail, we would start with Mass together. Every year, without fail, we would start our new year with Mary.
This year, as a mom of three boys who are growing up remarkably fast, I am thinking a lot about this idea of starting my new year with Mary. What would that look like? I think, in part, it would be recognizing what Mary can teach me.
I think Mary can teach me this new year to:
- Capture the small moments: Mary, as depicted in the Gospels, reflected on her moments as a mom, like later in Luke when Jesus was lost and then found in the temple, and Luke reminds us once again that Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” This year, she can teach me how to notice the small, daily interactions with my children and reflect on what they mean to my relationship with them.
- Grow in understanding of others: When Mary appears to others who need her, she always appears in their dress, culture, color of skin, and speaking their language. She meets them where they are by expressing a deep knowledge of who they are. She can teach me the importance of taking time to really know the stories and experiences of others.
- Say yes: Mary, a poor teenage girl in a remote village, was chosen to be the Mother of God. The Angel Gabriel’s ask of her was massive. Her “yes” and the life that followed reminds me that when you say yes to the person God is calling you to be, the details will work themselves out. Starting my year with Mary can teach me to say yes to God’s desires for me with greater trust that God and Mary will support me along the way.
How can you start your year with Mary?