During Advent last year, a woman I don’t know posted a poem on her facebook page. It described some of the raw details of childbirth that we tend to gloss over especially when we sing Away in a Manger. How unrealistic to say that Jesus would make no cry!
I, being a mom, found her poem beautiful and poignant, and a welcome addition to the Christmas story. Christmas is, after all, about giving birth. And childbirth is raw and painful, bloody and messy.
The poem forced me to ponder the reality of Jesus’s birth—labor pains, contractions, pushing, groans, blood and sweat and maybe tears and screams. There was the expulsion of fluid and perhaps the tearing of flesh. And maybe more-so for Mary because she had never even had sex.
Then came the afterbirth: the delivery of the placenta, the tying of the umbilical cord, the stitching, cleaning up, the breastfeeding. Lots of crying followed, wet and soiled diapers (or cloths of some sort), sleepless nights, and perhaps cracked and sore nipples. Where are these details in the Christmas story?
Scripture only gives us two verses:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.Luke 2:6–7 NIV
Whenever women get together to welcome a newborn, they always tell the story of the birth: the length of the labor, the pain level, whether surgery was needed or medication. Especially interesting are stories of roadside deliveries or as in the case of my sister-in-law, self-delivery! (Now that’s a story worth retelling.)
Men don’t think like this. We’re lucky if they remember to relay the name, let alone the weight and length of the baby. And so when mostly married western men preach the story from our church pulpits, it lacks fullness. We need the viewpoints of men and women, married and single, young and old, western and middle-eastern to paint the complete portrait. After all, it took my single friend to point out to me Mary’s lack of sex as it related to childbirth.
Remember that Jesus came through the birth canal and nursed at the breast of a young virgin. Raw, visceral, and organic, it’s an amazing mystery how our Savior God was born into our world. Take a moment to celebrate that today.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
How does knowing that Jesus was born vaginally affect your understanding of the Christmas story?
What details can you add from your own experience of childbearing (or not) that enhance your ability to resonate with Mary’s experience?
How can we put our voices together to bring a greater understanding of the gospel?
Lord Jesus, I realize that, as a human, you don’t remember being born. But as God, you were there. And the Father and the Spirit watched over and cared for Mary as she breathed through each contraction and pushed through each pain. They made sure that Jesus was ushered into the world safely. Show me how to meld the earthly with the heavenly. And teach us how to blend the voices of mothers, fathers, single men and women, young and old so that we get a fuller picture of you and your birth.