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One Special Birth

Every year, the calendar funnels us down to that one day when we celebrate a birth—the birth of Jesus. If you think about it, we do it in the most unusual ways, with ugly sweater parties, excessive consumption, frenzied shopping trips and charged purchases, and a long list of expectations that are impossible to meet.

But, when I really think about the details of Jesus’ birth, I’m reminded of the four times I gave birth. I’ve heard many say if you’d truly remember those nitty gritty details, no woman would ever allow herself to get pregnant again. And indeed, after my first birth, I wondered at those mothers that had several children. I decided they were all crazy. And now, I’m one of them. Yes, time does dull some of the memories, but not all.

Even today, many of the details of my children’s births come back so clearly.

As I did, I imagine Mary first noticing the contractions. A dull cramping coming every fifteen minutes or so. And then, as the night progressed, the pains grew closer, stronger, until she could no longer deny this was actually happening.

I had the wonderful, though bumbling support of my husband and I’m thankful to this day he attended my side at each of the births.

But Mary, at that moment was she alone? Did the men take him aside, or ...

Did Joseph support her?

Had she ever seen birth before? (My experience seeing birth was vague recollections of a movie in ninth grade health class. Even my Lamaze classes didn’t show that.)

Did she know what to expect?

Were they prepared with supplies? (In those days babies were washed, salted, and wrapped in strips of cloth.)

Was she worried about complications, about bleeding too much?

Had she lost a relative or friend to childbirth?

Did she feel fear?

So many questions, and yet we do know this: Mary did it. Mary birthed her little king baby into the world on that first Christmas night.

And while I cannot confirm it, I’m confident that just as when I was giving birth, there was fear, there was longing, there was doubt, there was despair … and then there was inexplicable joy.

When I look at so many nativity scenes, I think of these things, and I want to change those figurines. For what I see is the reality—an unclothed Mary, with a squalling baby snuggling between her breasts. I see the mess, a smear of sticky, white vernix on her cheek, and blood dripping down her leg.

And then I see the ecstasy of birth—the joy that bursts forth in sobs following all that pain and fear and months of deep, deep longing.

I imagine Joseph taking it all in, amazed and dumbfounded by the miracle he has just witnessed. It is likely he has no adequate words to express his feelings. Perhaps he has to put his head down between his knees, take some deep breaths, and fight back his dizziness.

But still, at the center of it all, are two youngsters, a baby, and the messy aftermath of birth.

We’ve sanitized the Christmas story to the point that it’s nearly lost its power. Let’s not lose sight of the heart of this story. God orchestrated all of this for us, for our salvation.

He loves us that much.

Oh holy night!

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