In the discussion of nature versus nurture, nurture has my vote. Christmas cards of Mary, Joseph, and the Infant Jesus indicate the artists feel the same. Certainly, Mary’s genes had much to do with Jesus’ physical appearance. But beyond that, the portrayed emotions convey nurture in the tenderness, care, and love of the parents. More frequently greeting cards with Joseph replace a rather stoic older man with a younger man sleeping peacefully after fatiguing days of travel and tension. One can imagine Joseph’s relief in finally finding a place to stay. Mary has given birth, and the guardian of the Holy Family can breathe again. No staff with lily props up the foster father. Yet the artist portrays Joseph’s attentive love even in sleep.
The love of Mary for her Child is palpable on that Hallmark card. Mary who was filled with grace and never sinned throughout the course of her young life had only purest affection for her baby. How was that pure love nurturing her Child? What was Mary’s impact on her Son who would tell of his heavenly Father’s unconditional love? What did Jesus learn from his parents’ prayer, observance of the Law, forgiveness, service, and kindness? I imagine Jesus imbibed a spirituality that formed his Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, his care for the blind and lame, his self-sacrifice to the point of death.