Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love to decorate my house, even though I rarely have company. I love to bake and EAT all sorts of goodies. I love watching holiday movies with my kids and watching them get excited about the lights around town. I love the attitude of giving and caring that is less present during other times of the year.

Then there is the music. The upbeat jingle in every store you walk into, the glorious hymns in church, the love-it-but-drives-you-crazy songs for the kids’ Christmas programs that are belted out repeatedly every minute of every day.

One of my favorite songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” I liked it as a child and felt a connection to Mary as the Mother of God. However, when I became a mother myself, the song became particularly meaningful. 

The Bible doesn’t give us much when it comes to Gabriel’s visit with Mary. He told her that God wanted her to be the mother to his Son; she asked how since she was a virgin; he explained the Holy Spirit, said Jesus would rule and His kingdom would never end; she agreed to it all, and he left.

The song asks so many questions of Mary. Did you know your child would perform all these miracles, that he’s walked in Heaven, that he is God? Did she know?

Did the angel tell her during that visit? Did he explain the amazing things Jesus would do? Did he describe how her heart would break over and over again from the moment he was sentenced to death? Did he explain to her that she would suffer this pain so that her baby could save people for eternity?

When I first became a mother, I recall the intense feeling I had to seeing my newborn daughter. The phrases “love with all my heart”, “desire to protect”, and “unable to imagine life without her” still don’t do justice in describing that feeling.

What did Mary see in her baby boy? When she looked at him for the first time, what did she feel? My favorite line of the song is, “And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.” When she placed that first kiss on his head, felt his heart beating quickly, heard him crying out for her—did she think of him as God?

I’m absolutely positive Jesus didn’t walk through this world with a halo around his head like we see in all the pictures. What was there, other than the memory of an angel, to remind Mary that her child was different? That he came from a place she couldn’t even imagine, a place where there were angels and pure joy? That when she held him, she held a being with intense power, authority, and, well, awesomeness? 

When I kiss my baby boy, I feel like I’m kissing an angel. Such innocence, contentment, absolute faith and trust in me—I am his world. Is that what it was like for Mary? Did she feel like the world to her baby, or did she feel the world pressing in on them?

Like me, did she have an intense desire to protect him from harm? To keep the cruel, mean world away from him and to protect his innocence as long as she could? Not only to do this because an angel said Jesus would be a King but simply because she loved him? When she looked at Jesus, did she see God, or did she simply see her sweet baby boy?

I try to allow my children to grow into their own people. I do push certain things, like sports, work ethic, compassion, and other skills. I don’t know what their future holds, but I hope it’s filled with learning, happiness, and love. 

Did Mary dream of what Jesus’ future would be like? If she did, I bet she didn’t imagine things like turning water to wine, walking on water, curing the sick, healing the blind and lame, or raising people from the dead.

Did she look at her baby and wonder how she could mold him into a caring human? Did she see him playing games with other children? Did she see him learning in school? Did she imagine him as a carpenter when he came of age? Did she wonder what kind of woman he would marry and how many grandchildren she would have?

Perhaps she knew what the future held for him. Maybe the angel told her. Perhaps she lived in the moment, taking in every coo, each connection while nursing him, every developmental milestone, every chance she had to hold and snuggle him because she knew that one day, the world would betray him and she would be helpless to save him. 

Helpless—a mother’s worse nightmare. She wouldn’t even be able to ease his pain. Mary, did you know? 

When I miscarried, I turned to God to help me, but I also turned to Mary because she is a mother. She knows what it is like to carry a child in her womb and to have that connection with a life inside herself. She knew my feelings of helplessness and suffering. God can ease my pain and heal my soul, but it is Mary, another human mother, with whom I can relate.

Mary, you know us mothers. You know about child-bearing and birth. You know what it’s like to raise a child. Sometimes, when I look at my children, I wonder how they will survive in a world that seems to get crueler each day. How did you prepare your son to live in a harsh world? Did you worry about him like I worry about my children’s futures? Did you kiss his boo-boos and wipe his nose? Did you send him out and hope for the best?

Mother to mother, what was it like to hold your baby boy, the Son of God? Based on how tightly I hold my babes . . . I can only imagine.

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.