Conventional wisdom says that everybody loves their mother. It’s a man’s one thing—apart from one’s beard—that his fellow man isn’t to insult. Even Mussolini, nature dictates, had a soft spot for his mammina.
But somehow, even though everyone has a mother, a segment of society has managed to declare war on motherhood.
This war has been waged across multiple fronts, generally with significant gains for the opposition. Motherhood is seen as an inconvenience, an interruption in one’s life plan, evidenced by the continually hiking average age of first-time mothers. A misunderstanding of the economic factors of parenthood and marriage is feeding hysteria over the “child penalty” bogeyman. It wasn’t long ago that our former president notoriously referred to having a baby as a “punishment.” And meanwhile, the cultus of abortion has convinced millions of women in the last four decades to literally murder their own children.
The Nativity is now an object of public scorn requiring all the obligatory trigger warnings, not only because of the identity of the Baby, but because of the real, happy, cisgender mother looking at him in humble adoration.
But God’s view of motherhood trumps that of the cultural onslaught. From heaven’s perspective, Christian motherhood is itself a warfare of another kind.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).
Christmas is a time for us to remember that time in history when motherhood literally helped save the world.
As Protestants, we vehemently reject the blasphemous Marian dogmas established by the Roman Catholic Church, which exalt Mary to virtual divine status as co-mediatrix with Christ. Scripture is clear that Jesus alone can save. We do not need to appeal to his mother for him to bend his ear our direction; he himself is the sole source of grace, and she is imbued with no such power to hear prayer.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Mary’s story in Scripture has nothing to tell us—if that were so, the Spirit of God would not have inspired it.
Mary was a virgin, but that doesn’t mean she was some goldilocked, featherweight valley girl who passed her days frolicking through the Judean grass-fields making idle chatter with talking birds and mice. Her life wasn’t a Rembrandt painting, and the ground she walked on didn’t leave behind a soft glow. She was much more of a Sarah Connor than a Cinderella. Like her mother Eve, she found herself a soldier locked in a holy war on the serpent and his seed. With dirt under her fingernails, sweat on her brow, and pain in childbirth, she enlisted in the service of God to smuggle the infant, head-crushing assassin of Satan into occupied territory.
For Mary, motherhood was no mundane post. It wasn’t holding her back from higher pay or fuller self-actualization. Neither was her virginity the result of an overprotective, patriarchal society. Her vocation as a mother was a summons to the frontlines of the fight in the ages-old theater of Genesis 3:15. And in accepting her call, she dignified the rank of “mom” to one of the highest-prized spots in the saintly chain of command.
Of course, unlike Mary, we don’t operate knowing our children will be saviors. Since Jesus alone was the promised in Genesis 3:15, no other physical descendent from a family of believers or from the genealogical line of Abraham is inherently set apart in the same way. In the new covenant, the principle of physical offspring is replaced by its antitype: spiritual offspring who share faith in Christ (cf. Romans 4:11-12). But it does not follow that the fulfillment of seed promises in Christ have now stripped the office of parent of its glory. Christian parenthood is honorable, holy, and normative.
To further illustrate the point, note that in between the first gospel promise and the arrival of the promised Seed, there were vast numbers of ordinary generations. God’s people were waiting. And while they waited, they employed against Satan’s kingdom the guerrilla tactic of raising ordinary, godly kids.
Why It Matters
Jesus is the only Savior, and God receives all the glory for accomplishing redemption, but the ordinary means God often employed in the plan should not be lost on us. When the time came for God to lay the axe to the root of the kingdom of darkness, he started by calling a young woman to be a mother—to change diapers, breastfeed, lose hair, and lose sleep. It wasn’t pretty. But it was phase one in God’s strategy for global conquest.
It shouldn’t be lost on us that when the devil retaliated, he fought back with infertility and death. In Genesis 6:1-4, he and his legions weaponize sexual perversion and misconduct to corrupt the bloodline of Messiah. That scarlet thread runs throughout Scripture, from Pharaoh’’s massacre of the Israelite boys (Exodus 1:22) to Herod’s mass forced abortion campaign (Matthew 2:16-18). The culture of darkness is a culture of death. In contrast, it is the godly—individuals like Mary—who obediently raise families, have children, train them in the fear of the Lord, and trust God to sort out the rest.
Notice how Mary conspicuously fails to bemoan her victimhood in the Magnificat:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50, ESV)
Mary was happy to be a mother. Though her situation was unique and unrepeatable, she models the joy we can have as parents perpetuating a culture of righteousness. We too are mandated to be fruitful and multiply, and while our kids aren’t long-awaited messiahs, if they are in Christ, they have their own good works prepared for them in advance (Ephesians 2:10).
So to the tired Christian mom: secular culture may say it’s time for you to focus on yourself for a change, and everyone needs rest from time to time, but exhaustion is a sign you’re doing something right. Something worthwhile. When godly mothers and fathers tag-team to feed, bathe, cuddle, and catechize a handful of little sinners, such seeds of obedience yield a harvest of righteousness.
Christmas is a reminder that spiritual warfare is intergenerational. Cultures change because of kids. Motherhood matters. 2,000 years ago, God’s Son stomped the serpent’s head—and today, God still perfects praise from babes and topples kingdoms through kindergarteners.