Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of God! I like that this feast day falls on the first of the new calendar year (even though the Church calendar year began with Advent) because both days mark new beginnings. January 1 is a day that we often start off with new resolutions, or at least new hopes for a better year than the past year–for example, hoping that a vaccine will make possible traveling to see distant family or friends who we cannot safely see right now. Mary’s motherhood marks the beginning of Jesus’s life, which began as all human lives do, within another human being, his mother. It reminds us that we all have mothers, we all have a person who gave us the gift of life and often nurture, or perhaps others nurtured us as mothers even if they were not birth mothers. Life is a gift, and we are here not by our own choice, but because we were birthed, raised and nurtured by women and men who cared for us.
Mary’s title is also important in church history because naming her Theotokos, mother of God, not just mother of Jesus, was an important way to mark that Jesus, God incarnate, came from a human woman. She did not simply birth the human Jesus, but is the mother of him in his divinity as well. It reminds us that she had a freedom to assent to bringing the divine into the world, and in a way she is a model for us. We will not birth a Savior, but we do have the opportunity to bring life and light into the world in our actions of love, care, and tenderness in the world, whether we are mothers or not, no matter what our gender. Perhaps a good way to begin the new year is to consider where God calls each one of us to bring a little more of Jesus’s spirit into the world, and to practice the kind of patient, loving care for others in our lives. Instead of treating New Year’s resolutions as tough obstacles that we must work for as lofty goals, perhaps the milder way of Mary and pursuing the way of tenderness will bring us further towards God and others.