Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Modern Day Mary

Can you even imagine...?

It wasn't a "normal" thing for angels to appear and talk with people when Mary was told by the angel that she would give birth to a son. She was just a young girl and had hopes of marrying Joseph. In that time it would make her probably 14 or 15 years old. Today's "Mary" marrying young might be an 18 year old young lady. To have an angel appear I can't even imagine that in and of itself. The descriptions of the heavenly beings in the Bible don't portray cute cherubim with their diapers and wings. No, they're generally huge and in my own mind quite intimidating. Maybe God chose to use something more calm to tell Mary of her impregnated state... or maybe not. After all, the first words out of his mouth were "Do not be afraid."

She probably was quite hesitant to tell anyone of her encounter aside from her close friends and, of course, Joseph. How scary to approach your fiance and say "I'm pregnant by God, the angels told me so..." I can't blame him for wanting to kindly leave her at first. After all, who would believe that story? But God spoke to him as well and assured Joseph that he was doing the right thing in marrying Mary and that indeed this child of hers had been planted by God himself.

Then the census... for a young man of maybe 20 to take his new bride that is now almost 9 months along in her pregnancy and huge and uncomfortable on a trip to his father's city of birth had to have been quite a trek. Not to mention poor Mary herself riding along on a donkey and having labor pains! I didn't even want to take the bumpy roads in the car to get to the hospital when I was in labor with Kristopher and I simply cannot imagine being on a donkey and having contractions. Maybe they stopped a lot? Is that why they arrived so late and didn't get there early enough for a room in the Inn? They do say that horseback riding brings on labor... :)

So then to hear that after a long ride on the back of a donkey and in the midst of labor that there's nowhere to go with a soft(ish) bed to lay down on and instead to be brought out to where the animals are kept... In those times they often didn't even have freestanding buildings to house the animals and instead used carved out hills like caves for them. I'm sure the stables had been cleaned fairly recently because of the expectation of so many guests for the census, but even still the smell would have been horrible and the surroundings of the travelers' horses and donkeys and maybe some milk cows and a dog or two... Not exactly a place for a laboring woman to lie down and rest.

Not only that, but this was Mary's first child. A young mother birthing her first child with her new husband in a cave. Were Joseph's family members nearby? Did the inn keeper's wife and daughter help deliver Jesus? Were there other guests aware of her situation? Did no one offer her a clean bed and a place to stay in their stead? But Jesus came in to the world and immediately was looked upon as the illegitamite son of a girl who lies to cover up her sins (by saying he was in fact the Son of God)... that is, if she told anyone...

But the scriptures were fulfilled, the angels proclaimed the birth of the Christ child to the shepherds in the fields and they came to bow down to him. Herod ordered the kings to find this baby and to tell him where this child could be found so that he could "worship" him... but they later were told that Herod planned to kill the child and took another way home. By the time the kings found Jesus he was back in his hometown and probably close to 2 years old. That's one of those things that we don't really think about when placing the kings in the Manger Scene at Christmas time.

But after Jesus was born, the scared young girl, her new husband, and a sweet new baby boy then made their way back to their hometown by donkey. I'm sure that wasn't a pleasant trip either, having just given birth and not having modern medicine in the real "nitty gritty" of giving birth. Every labor pain was full force, there were no epidurals. Each push to bring forth the baby wracked pain through her body and as a young mother she likely was small. No episiotomies, no stitches, no ice packs or tylenol. And then let's hop back on a donkey and go back. Piece of cake. Did Jesus nurse easily? Did Mary have to figure out how to nurse him while riding the donkey or were they able to stop and rest every hour or two? Not to mention the pain that often comes in those first days of bringing a baby to the breast... Did Mary have to endure all of this while out on the road with only Joseph to aide her?

Often times I read through the story of Jesus' birth and it becomes so second nature that I can rehearse it almost word for word to the Biblical account. But when we really stop and think about what it meant for Jesus to be born in with the animals by a young mother miles from home and to be paid down in the manger which just moments before had the horses eating from it... the REAL picture of Jesus' birth and the lowliness of His beginnings is so much clearer.

May God Bless you this Christmas and place in you a renewed spirit of Hope, Faith, and Love as the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated across the land.

Merry Christmas from the Cornish Family!
With love from Michael, Meredith, Emma, Kristopher, Brianna, & Micah

1 comment:

  1. Four years ago, I had a 4 day-old baby on Christmas Day. Many of the same thought went through my mind that Christmas. My perspective was very much with Mary! Having a baby around the holidays is very hectic, but it sure made for interesting reflection on the story of that first Christmas.