About a year ago, I came across a wonderful image of Mary and Jesus – a painting of a young Mary holding her baby. Mary is looking straight out of the painting, directly into the eyes of whoever is looking at her.
I looked up the artist to find out more about her and about this piece she had painted. The artist’s name is Stephanie Morris, and she lives in Mobile, Alabama. Stephanie said that after she painted this image of Mary holding Jesus, she meditated with it. She prayed with it the way one might pray with an icon. She took it with her on retreat, and she said that for hours, she stared into Mary’s eyes as Mary stared into hers. After some time, she heard Mary speaking to her, in her heart. Mary asked her a simple question: “Would you like to hold my baby?”
Of course the artist’s response was “Yes!” But then Mary said to her: “If you want to hold my baby, you will have to put down some of those things you are carrying.”
Do you want to hold Mary’s baby? Of course you do. But like the artist, you must first put down the other things you are holding – distractions and burdens and attachments, expectations and resentment and worry. In this last week of Advent, lay down whatever is holding you back from being this close to Jesus, from holding him against your heart as his mother does. When Mary offers him to you, you will be ready. You will hold out your arms in freedom and love.
It isn’t brazen or lacking in humility to be this bold, to take the Christ child in your arms, to hold him close to your heart. It is just what he wants you to do. It is just what Mary asks:
"Do you want to hold my baby?"