Book Review Series: In Mary’s Arms: A Christmas Message for Mothers

kerlily-2016Guest post by Kerlily. Kerlily is a mother of five wonderful, intense and passionate children who are pursuing their dreams in various ways. She loves to walk in nature, photograph odd things that call to her, make art with textiles and found items and write non rhyming poetry. She was born in England, lived for many years in Australia (where her heart remains) and now resides in Utah.


Review of Mary Holland McCann’s In Mary’s Arms: A Christmas Message for Mothers (and I add- with hectic schedules and small moments gleaned between duties). Mary Holland McCann is the daughter of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Patricia T. Holland. She is the mother of five children and lives in Utah County.


Mothers are notorious for being busy and overwhelmed at Christmas. We might want everything to be perfect, especially for the children in our care (born to us or otherwise), but are realistic enough (most of the time) to know that it won’t be like that. A book small enough to stash in a handbag/purse or large pocket or even somewhere in the car to read while waiting in the many spaces in between our hectic lives can be a treasure. This book is like a block of dark chocolate. Each section a small piece, morsels to be relished: OR if it is your fancy, scoff the lot! There are things to think about in the seven short chapters that could be read in many ways and not necessarily in order. Pondering each section helped me to think more about the role of Mary, of women, the Christ-like qualities of mothers before us and of those who do (or will one day) mother. As I consider the mother of our Lord, I wonder- How might I be like Mary?

This sweet, tiny book, written by a woman (a mother) begins with a true story from 1984 – 51poc1cbp6l-_sx383_bo1204203200_a heartwarming charitable act at Christmas by a young man, to a mother who has obviously sacrificed for her children. On reflection I wonder if there is a more up to date example and although this brings us in to the idea of being more like Christ through thinking about the qualities His mother had, it seems a little disjointed. Scriptural accounts, stories and doctrine are used to consider some characteristics that qualify Mary for her calling as the mother of the Saviour in relation to the calling of ‘mother’.

The introductory chapter prompts me to think about the ‘sacred responsibility’ Mary had and how this connects to my mothering along with the author, especially as we both have five children. The initial story is also used to round off the discussion at the end of the book and reminds us that a ‘mere mortal, a mother’ (p.42) could have, and nurture, heavenly qualities. I really, really want to live like Christ: especially at Christmas, not that I succeed. The final words are an encouraging note and led me to feel it is possible to more fully emulate our Saviour – not just a Christmas time, but always.

How? You may ask… Practical suggestions come from each chapter and I was truly hopeful that my mothering is and can be good enough with support from above. McCann shows that Mary’s character helps remind us ‘not to let our fear get in the way of our faith’ (p.17) and that we have help from our Father in Heaven. They are His children that we mother. It’s not about me and I need to remember that (anyone with toddlers or teens already knows this). It doesn’t get me off the hook though as I need to ‘guide them into becoming the people He had designed them to be’ (p. 22), which is no easy task.

As I ponder in my heart, as Mary did, I can be the person Gods wants me to be which will help the children (His children) that I encounter and mother. This had me questioning what I can and do I pass on to the children who find their way in my arms. As a mother of grown children (are we ever really grown up?) how might I do things differently for the young and not-so-young children who are part of my life?

The final ‘lesson from Mary’ (p.37) as presented by the author is that we all have pain; it is part of being mortal. That extends to our children and the difficult time we have as mothers watching their pain. As the mother of the one who suffered for us all felt such great pain yet was righteous, so we should not assume that our pain comes from any wrongdoing.

Who is this book for? I read it in small moments gleaned between my schedule of ‘must do’s’ and felt uplifted and inspired to mother with attention to the above lessons from a mother, presented through a mother’s perspective. As I think of mothering and the range of emotions that evokes I can see that this book ‘for Mothers’ might give support and ideas to ponder for all who mother. We all have a biological mother and often have many others who mother us. I am thinking of my mother, a great-grandmother; those of my children who have worked as nannies and mothered children in their care; my friends who have no children- yet mother so many; and those who have fostered and adopted children or care for them in many ways. This book helped me to take some time to think about Mary, her role in the birth and raising of the Saviour, the qualities she had, and those I might develop further to be more as He would have me be.

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  1. The Catholic Church, both Eastern Orthodox and Roman, as well as the Anglican communion, have many, many, many stories, books, prayers, songs, chants, rituals, etc. etc. associated with Mary. It would be a simple matter to find them. The role of Mary in the Incarnation is central to the Advent and Christmas season. This book seems rather slight in the face of the thought given to Mary Theotokos by the ancient Church.

    • I was able to attend an Advent service once that featured the O! Antiphons. I absolutely agree that they’re lovely, and in these internet days, easily accessible.

      I just looked up picture books about the Annunciation as part of my Advent worship this year, and I couldn’t find any, which surprised me, because we can’t have Christmas without that sacred moment in Mary’s life.

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