In the middle of a cool, dark night in a little middle eastern town, a young woman, no more than a girl really, found herself in the throes of childbirth.
Exhausted from days of travel and lacking basic the conveniences of a home or bed, she paced and breathed heavily, demanding her body to bring forth all of its energy to help her bring forth the baby fighting within her to get out.
She did not find herself in the bright, sterile, safe environment of a hospital with all the measures of modern convenience, but in a cool, dark, stable surrounded by nothing but hay and candlelight.
Hours had passed, and she could feel the moment drawing near...the moment that she would go from vessel to mother...from carrier to comforter. With a sharp intake of breath, she doubles over and lands hard on her knees on the rough stable ground. Was it pain? No, not pain this time. Fear. Her mind raced, could she do this? She felt so strongly all of a sudden that she couldn’t. She couldn’t birth this baby and she couldn’t raise it well. She was no one, no skill, trade, or birthright had brought her here...only simple faithfulness. Could faithfulness alone sustain the weight of motherhood? At this moment, in this stable, at this hour...she didn’t think it could.
A groan comes from deep within her, visceral and unintentional, it pulls her from her thoughts and she bends down deeper still. Pain overrides her fear and the large belly now nestled between her legs tightens with the familiar but growing intensity of another contraction.
Her abdomen loosens and her body relaxes, but everything in her grows more tense. Though she knows she has one only final hurdle before her labor ends, the sense of new beginning is all that she seems to be aware off. The sweat that once dotted her forehead has now migrated and seems to cover every inch of her body. It’s so much work and she’s just so tired. She wants to stop, give up, call for help even, but she knows there is no point. This baby is coming, with or without her cooperation. Her body gives her no time rest as the contractions begin to come quickly, one after another, almost on top of each other. Her body feels like fire and force, and she rocks forward onto her knees, on all fours like the stable animals that surround her.
Back and forth she rocks and hums to try and find a sense of calm in the midst of birth’s calamity...sweat, heat, fire, tearing, pain, force, and power. Every part of her body is working together to bring life to earth, and every part of her mind is doubtful of her ability to do it. She groans again, this time louder, bordering on a low yell. She leans her chest toward the ground and she feels her body bear down without her help or permission, and with a sudden gush of blood and water she knew He was almost here.
With a deep breath she pushes with as much effort as she can, red faced, breath held, teeth grinding against the tension in her jaw…when fire turns to relief and she reaches down and feels the soft, sticky head of her newborn baby making its way out. One more push. That was all she needed. She breathed in deep, calling on the God who called her to help her, and with everything she possesses, she released her breath along with a guttural yell that came from the bottom of the womb that she now emptied, and with it her new baby slipped from within her, insides on his outsides. There, amidst the soft sounds of the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cows, the piercing sound of a baby’s cry broke the sound of the silent night that encompassed them.
She reached down and grabbed Him, unbothered and unconcerned with the mess she rolled to her back and drew him, waxy and new to her chest. Grabbing the labor robes that lay next to her, she draped them over both of them, swaddling them together as tightly as they could be outside of her womb. He rolls his newborn head to the side, and there in the candle light, his eyes dark and blinking meet hers, and they relive every moment of the last nine months together. She smiles and recalls the movements he made within her as he stretches his arms and legs across her body, searching for the internal warmth He’s always known. Every prayer, song, plea, and whisper she uttered during her pregnancy fill the air around them, and in the midst of a holy moment on a normal night, she rejoices with tears and laughter over God’s promise to her and His goodness to help her endure.
Peace floods her body and joy floods her mind. It feels like she is experiencing tangible love for the first time ever. Though she doesn’t want to end their temporary eternity together, she knows her husband waits worried just outside of the door, and it’s time to bring him into the miracle that lay eating on her chest.
So with every bit of the strength she has left, she shouts, “Joseph!” and the stable door bursts open. It was like he’d been waiting for her call since she started. He runs to her side and kneels down to look at his wife and new baby, this wholly human and equally divine creation he’s now charged to raise. The thought overtakes him and he chokes back a sob. This baby, God in flesh, born this night in a filthy stable, no throne, no crown, no court…no power, prestige, or position, just an infant…feeble, vulnerable, and small. A knot caught in his throat. The air felt humble and he felt inadequate. How could he father the Son of the Most High? How could he raise the Word and Truth as a boy? And at the thought, He could hold back no more tears. The floodgates of composure broke and a soft wail, a prayer masquerading as a sob, an act of worship disguised as excitement, poured out from within him; and in response, He thought for a moment, he could hear Heaven rejoicing, not for him, but for the willingness of God to wrap Himself in flesh and come to Earth in the form of a baby, this baby who would grow up to be the Savior of the world. He looks at His wife, she looks back, and the words they exchanged without speaking say more than a lifetime of words ever could.
On that night, in small stable in Bethlehem, Mary became a mother and Jesus became a Son.