My firstborn arrived unexpectedly for Christmas. Born on 23 December, he was a month premature and weighted only 2.2kg. Our old Scottish minister sent a telegram, “To the wee stranger who came for Christmas”.
I didn’t get to take my wee stranger home for three weeks. They were difficult weeks but the homecoming was wonderfully exciting … and just a little scary. I’d never handled such a tiny baby before and now he was my responsibility.
Suddenly all the books I’d read and classes I’d been to in preparation for motherhood didn’t seem to help. He had trouble feeding, didn’t sleep and suffered with severe colic. Month after month without sleep, I felt helpless and inadequate.
Who was this little man who’d been given to me for a few short years to nurture and to love? What qualified me to be the mum he needed? Absolutely nothing. But parenting is something you learn on the job … there’s no apprenticeship … just walking by faith, one step at a time.
I guess it was no different for Mary. Amidst all the glory and wonder of the birth of Jesus, I often think about her. The journey she and Joseph made to Bethlehem was approximately the distance from Sydney to Lithgow (140kms). Whether on donkey or on foot I couldn’t imagine making that trip while pregnant, especially over rough dirt roads and hilly terrain. It would have been demanding and exhausting and oh so uncomfortable.
And at the end of the trip there was no comfy bed with ensuite. Contrary to the common belief that she gave birth in the stable of an inn, Mary and Joseph are believed to have bedded down on the lower floor of a house of one of Joseph's relatives. It's thought that they stayed in the area of the house where the animals were brought in for the night ... why? ... because the house was already filled with other guests.
I wonder how Mary felt as she cradled her baby in her arms for the first time … grateful … honoured and maybe just a little overwhelmed? God had chosen a young village girl to be mother to His Son, to feed and clothe him, nurture him, bandage his knee, wipe his tears and love him to the end.
She could not have known or even begun to comprehend what lay ahead of this baby she’d just birthed. Like Abraham before her, who could not have imagined that obeying God and leaving Haran would set in motion a stream of history so vast and one which would include this moment in the manger.
Mary helps me grasp just a tiny bit more, the reality of the Incarnation … the incomprehensible truth that “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us”. This ordinary mum … the everydayness of childhood, the joys and sorrows of family life and the embracing of humanity in a carpenter's shed.
May the wonder and truth of the Incarnation be fresh for you this Christmas Season.