It is the second year in a row that I am celebrating Christmas having given birth that year. Hopefully third time is not the charm…… It changes my perspective on Christmas for sure. In the past I have always been sort of enamored with the shepherds. They were my favorites. I mean, there they are just minding there own business when BAM the glory of the Lord totally invades their life.I could relate to that. I have been there.
But the whole mother thing. I could never relate to it at all. I remember thinking as a teen, that maybe the Holy Spirit intervened for Mary, that it was a completely painless and peaceful birth. As serene as so many of those carols we sing suggest. Yes, I thought, a miraculous pain free birth, that must have been it.And that was pretty much how I pictured it all. Even after I went through it twice, until I read this. And I suddenly have a very different picture of how it all went down conjuring in my heart.
I picture Mary on hands and knees, panting and grunting. Looking to Joseph and asking him if it will be over soon. Calling to God that in the middle of transition, that He must have been mistaken. She simply cannot bear the Christ child, let alone raise Him. And then the sense of peace that comes (with all those awesome hormones that come rushing your way) as someone pulls Jesus into her arms and she sees that He is in fact okay, she did in fact bear this child just as the Lord called her to do. He is here, He is glorious, and He is hers. I picture Mary naked and sobbing as she buries her face into the top of Jesus’ wet pink head. Later when she and her new baby are cleaned up, her and Joseph sit around and giggle about how tiny His little toes are, what a noisy eater He is. When the shepherds come Mary shows off her new baby. So proud of Him and what she managed to do. But her sweetest moments are the ones that first night when Joseph and all the animals are asleep and she pulls Jesus out of the manager just to smell Him. Joseph is a good guy and all but that was an arranged marriage. This is love at first sight.
I am drawn to the comparison of Christs actual birth and the things that Christ births in each of us. Sometimes it is actual things (anybody know what I should do with that kids book I wrote…anyone out there a literary agent?), sometimes relationships, sometimes freedom from things. God wants to birth things in us. I am struck by the stories I have head about birth, how much they sound like people in spiritual labor.
Like my sister who says half way through pushing she decides it is too hard. She hears the people around her telling her to push, that it is almost done, but really she just wants people to leave her alone. She is too tired and does not want to do it anymore so she just lies there instead, when she should be pushing through it. How often do we do this? Get to the end of something God wants us to do and decide it is simply too hard, we cannot go on. So we do nothing, when we would be better off pushing through.
Or the woman who told her husband “You better get your brother out of here because I am about to take all my clothes off!” Sometimes what we need to do makes other people uncomfortable…..and we need to do it anyway, and let people leave the room if they can’t handle it. Sometimes what God is asking us to do is lay our naked soul for all to see. And that can get awkward.
Sometimes it is like my cousin, who in the middle of transition she started packing her bags. She told her husband and her midwife she was not having this baby, that they were leaving the hospital. I can certainly relate to this. Sometimes when God calls us to something we simply flee. Jonah did that as I recall….it didn’t really work out for Him. But I think sometimes I do leave, and then I am stuck spiritually pregnant and uncomfortable because I got scared and ran away.
Sometimes God’s plan for us is like a dear friend’s birth. She did everything she could but she needed a c-section. It wasn’t at all what she pictured, and when she realized it wasn’t going to go down as she had imagined she kicked everyone out of the room to grieve. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, what God has for us is nothing like we imagine. I think God understands that we need to grieve the old plans in order to embrace His new ones.
Or in my case, I need people around me who believe that I can give birth. Because even as I am doing it, I holler out that I cannot. I need my brothers and sisters in Christ to remind me that I can in fact and am in fact doing what I am claiming I cannot do.
Birth is messy and can feel confusing. It comes too quickly in some cases and not quickly enough in others (Oh rooster….you were worth the wait). It never goes how we expect or plan or picture. I don’t pretend to know what it was like for Mary, or any woman for that matter. Birth is completely individual and universal all at the same time, just like our relationships with God. It is hard. But oh it is beautiful in all forms. Birth at all, let alone in a stable, is not the most glorious way to show up on this planet. Often the things God births in us come as screaming needy babies, things that need to be nursed and protected.
If I had been asked how I wanted to come into this world, I don’t think I would have picked through a birth canal as a baby. And yet, that is exactly the way Jesus came. He chose the birth process, and I am sure it changed Mary forever, just as it has changed me forever. When I think about Mary birthing the Christ child…I can’t help wondering what God is asking me to birth this Christmas, and how it will change me.