I have given birth to three beautiful children. My first one was born when I was 29 years old, married for several years, and stable(ish) financially and socially. The last was born when I was 36, married for over a decade, and living in student housing, dependent on student loans for our finances and socially faltering in a new environment, far from family and friends.
We had all three babes in a hospital. Clean, sterile, doctors and nurses available to assist, ready for any situation. Heck, there was even a massage therapist available at the last hospital we delivered Sophia at!
I remember telling my husband, after delivering our very first baby, how grateful I was that he was there. I remember commenting to him how hard it must be for those moms who are alone, whose baby’s fathers aren’t in the picture. How hard it must be for teen moms, who don’t have the life experience to muster through the hours of pain that having a baby entails. How difficult the birth experience must be for those who are in tenuous situations.
Think back now, 2000 years. A pregnant (probably young teenage) girl, traveling with her fiance to a distant land, during the last days of her pregnancy. Did she know that the baby was on His way? Did the laboring start in the midst of the traveling to Bethlehem? Was she in the groans of pain as they sought out refuge from the inns and hostels and homes in town? Is that what finally softened someone’s heart to her, by seeing the clenching of her body as it was wracked with the pain of labor?
And a stable of all places. A place where animals reside.
Have you been to a farm before? It isn’t the most sterile or fresh smelling place. There was no sanitizing the hay, as this young woman sought to find comfort between contractions. There was no nurse on hand, checking vital signs. There was no doctor, gloving up, ready to catch the infant. Perhaps they had a midwife or two there, as was custom in the time, to help her deliver the Baby into the world. But perhaps not.
There was only Mary. And her betrothed. The man who wasn’t even the father of the child.
Imagine the rumors, the talk around town.
“Her? She claims it’s God’s baby.”
“Crazy, that is what she is.”
“No, she said Joseph isn’t the father. God is. Ha! Why Joseph would stay with her is beyond me!”
Okay, perhaps the verbiage isn’t exactly what it would have been in Nazareth two millennia ago, but you get the idea. It is the same type of talk that we hear now, when a single woman is pregnant. The comments. The criticism. The judgement.
And then, there He is. Born to a young virgin girl in the mess, laid in a manger, with few witnesses to see the birth of a Child born to be the Savior of the world. A Child born to redeem us, to free us from the bondage of our sin. Born to restore us in relationship with the Father.
I love this picture, but don’t know the artist to credit. Help!
I love the Christmas story, but it does leave me with so many questions. I want to know the details. I want to know the how, the where, the witnesses. But Luke’s description of the events leave out so much. And Matthew focuses more on Jesus’ lineage than it does on the birth story.
And that is where faith steps in.
Faith in believing that the God of the universe, the creator of everything, was re-created into human form in the womb of a girl. That the Holy Spirit conceived this Child in a virgin, that the Son of God, who was the Word with God since the beginning, began to grow as all babies do, from a clump of cells that divide, and divide, and the divine miracle of a baby was formed.
Faith in believing that the birth of a Savior wasn’t trumpeted throughout the land, but instead shared with the lowly….shepherds. The people of the time that had no status, no clout. They were unimportant. And yet, the most important news of humanity was shared with them first, by angels, singing praises to God, giving them directions to the manger. And that, through these simple, poor shepherds, the good news of the Messiah traveled through the land.
Faith that this Savior would grow, experience the fullness of humanity. Nursing at his mother’s breast, crawling, walking, toddling into childhood. Growing and maturing, through adolescence, until finally becoming a man, apprenticed at his stepfather’s side, learning to be a carpenter. Until His 30th year, when He is baptized by John, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and Christ’s ministry begins. Faith in His words, His works, His miracles.
Faith that this divine Man would take our burden of sin upon Himself, and willingly give Himself up to die a criminals death. That He would know the shame and humiliation of a crucifixion, given to the worst offenders of the day. That He would suffer for our sake. That His love is so abundant that He, the One who could call down the armies of the heavens to save his life, would instead offer it willingly for the redemption of each and every one of us.
Faith that this same divine Man would rise, fully alive, fully Human and fully God, three days after His death. That this resurrection would change the course of history, of humanity, of eternity.
Faith that He is who He says He is.
All of Christianity hinges on faith, a belief in this Son of God, Son of Man.
And it begins with the beautiful birth of a Child, born to the line of David, born of a virgin, born to be Light to a dark world, born to save us.
May you have joy-filled Christmas, knowing the peace that comes from knowing the Savior, and may His Light shine brightly in your life.