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We are, today, in a place between Christmas and Easter, and the Gospel reading reminds us of both these events. Mary, standing by the cross as her son is crucified, may have remembered the prophetic words of Simeon when her son was a baby:

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

When Mary said ‘Yes’ to God’s request that she be the mother of God’s son she took a risk and agreed to face an unplanned and unknown future. She was inspired to say ‘Yes’, because she trusted that God loved her and He loved His people and because she loved God with her whole heart. She accepted that her life would be changed beyond her power to control, by the love that inspired her.

And we think of the indescribable pain and anguish Mary must have felt as she stood helplessly by as her beloved child suffered and died.

Many years before another mother had given up her son to an unplanned and unknown future as she tried to hide him from the murderous intentions of the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Imagine her fear and the desperate longing for the safety of the child she loved. She hid him in a basket amongst the reeds, on the river, with his sister Miriam keeping watch.

And we think of the terror Miriam must have felt as the Pharaoh’s daughter approached, found him and recognised him as a Hebrew baby. Miriam would have every reason to believe that Pharaoh’s daughter would take the same line as Pharaoh himself in fearing the Hebrews and wanting their numbers limited.

When we take the risk of entering into a deep and committed relationship with God, or with another person for that matter, we enter into the unknown and unplanned. We give up our autonomy and accept that our lives will be changed by the love that inspires us, beyond our power to control. To love is costly.

Recently at a baptism service, I had in the corner of my eye all through the first part of the service, baby Eloisa lying safe and secure in her mother’s arms, feeding. She was totally dependent on her parents for care. Without them she couldn’t live.

A baby can’t choose to trust but is completely dependent on the love and faithfulness of those who care for her.

Often we have no choice about the uncertain and precarious future that’s put before us. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job or the loss of health, the unexpected birth of a baby, the ending of a relationship... all can throw us into a state of uncertainty, anxiety or fear.

But Jesus told us that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of God - ‘to enter the Kingdom of God’ is Christian shorthand for trusting ourselves into the safe and secure arms of our Heavenly parent. Babies have no choice about being dependent on those who care for them. As adults we have to choose to trust; to know our dependence on our Heavenly parent so that we might truly live. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said we need to be born again.

In the Kingdom of God, in the presence of God, we know, we experience, we are in, perfect love, perfect peace, perfect joy.

If you’ve ever seen a mother or father or grandparent looking into the face of the baby they love with absolute delight and wonder, you may get just an inkling of the way God looks at us.

I used to hold all children as I baptised them but I’ve stopped doing that now unless they’re very small, and I ask one of the parents to hold them - because in the arms of stranger pouring water over their heads they could become unhappy and cry and struggle. Handed back to their parents they stopped immediately, safe, secure, trusting. Held by their mother or father for baptism a child is looking straight into their parent’s smiling and encouraging face.

When we’re assaulted by the bad things of life it’s good to remember and to know that we’re in the arms of our Heavenly parent. And to know that as Jesus’ mother’s soul was pierced as her child suffered, so God’s own mother heart is pierced as God holds us in our suffering.

Questions:

  1. Have there been times in your life when you have found it difficult to trust God’s love and care for you?
  2. How has God shown you that He loves and cares for you in the most difficult times?