Jesus was too young to understand the excitement that attended his birth. Joseph, who had initially plotted to distance himself from the scandal, accepted his supporting role when the truth was finally revealed to him. The shepherds and kings were mere spectators.
At the heart of the drama in the stable that cold night was a woman--a woman who had heard God's call and given her life to the awesome and frightening miracle chosen for her. From that stable she walked in faith the long journey that finally took her to the foot of the cross.
Required of Mary was the most wrenching sacrifice a mother could offer--the life of her child. Today in South Africa, mothers daily relive that grief, as their children are shot in the streets, stolen in the night, or forced into lonely exile. This is the high price being paid for freedom.
In the struggle against apartheid, exuberant youths and the men who provide the most visible leadership in the movement usually receive the headlines. But for decades, women have offered their unique strength and commitment to the freedom movement in South Africa.
Most are mothers, who with raw determination and sheer courage have raised the next generation of the struggle. In the six weeks that Jim Wallis and I traveled throughout South Africa last spring (see "The Church Confronts Apartheid," August-September 1988), both church leaders and young comrades made a point of taking us to meet their mothers, who are revered with the highest honor.