The birth story of Jesus is filled with sacrificial obedience. Mary and Joseph's willingness to give up their social standing, community and even their lives for their son speak to an incredible faith and submission to God, but also to the genuine love and sacrifice to which every parent is called.
Being a parent is not a 'zero sum game' - what we gain doesn't equal what we give up. The reward is greater than the sacrifice, but the sacrifice is real and profound. If we haven't counted the cost to parenting, it might be time to sit down and faithfully ask, "Have I given up what I must in order to parent the best I can?" God rewards this type of faithfulness in the high task of parenting! Mary and Jospeh gave up much to parent Jesus. While the circumstances surrounding their sacrifice are probably different than our own, their faithfulness teaches important lessons about what we might be called to surrender in our parenting.
For Mary, having a child outside of marriage was social suicide in the first century, and for Joseph, marrying a woman who had so obviously violated their engagement was worse. The full extent of their social fall is seen in the actual birth moment - Mary and Joseph are alone - in a stable - giving birth to their firstborn... while Bethlehem fills with Joseph's family for the census. From every corner of the country Joseph's family poured in, and every one of them shunned and abandoned Joseph and his bride on the night of Christ's birth.
With social status devastated, Jospeh received additional overwhelming news: Herod wanted Jesus dead, and the young family needed to flee. Any relationships, sense of home or community that had been developed over those first two years were abruptly ripped away as the family of three fled to another country in the middle of the night.
Having children today might not be the social or community-destroying grenade it was for Mary and Joseph, but it can still be devastating. The strong temptation will be to leave our family on the altar of social standing. Being able to go out at night, spending extended time with friends or groups, working to maintain the same or similar rhythms and patterns as we did before children - all of these things can pull us away from our primary calling as parents.
Parenting does not put our social life on pause until the inconvenience of children goes away. Parenting overtakes and overwhelms the importance of our social life. This isn't to say we don't need breaks, getaways and community. But we need those things to fuel the health of our parenting, not to avoid or ignore our role.
In order to faithfully parent, we must be willing to sacrifice. Sometimes those are physical, sometimes relational - sometimes more. The calling on parents is high, and the sacrifice that's demanded might be much. But the reward is great, and Mary and Jospeh's sacrifice transformed the world.