The events of this year - pregnancy, childbirth, babyraising - have given me a new perspective on the well known Christmas story. As much as I love hearing the old lore told in the old King James - "And it came to pass in those days...the days were accomplished that she should be delivered...and lo! an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid" - I find I love it even more through new eyes.
I have been nine months pregnant. I know that every movement is pain, there is no sleep, there is no relief. I do not know the discomfort of traveling from my home during this month, on a donkey or in a cart, on mud-rutted paths and dusty roads. But I know now that this was not a journey for soul searching or deep thoughts. It would take all the stamina of a strong woman to survive.
I have given birth in a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility. Mary was far from home. But I know now that she was certainly not alone. The town was full, the inn was full - certainly midwives, mothers, grandmothers heard her terrorized cries and came to labor by her side. I know that while the night was holy, it was most certainly not silent, nor peaceful. I know the pain she felt as her body was torn apart to make way for her child. I know the violence that overtook her as she gave herself over to the drama of birth. I know the bustle that overtook the stable, the inn, the neighborhood, as women worked to give this new life a chance to breathe his first breath.
A plague upon our songs, our nativity scenes, our fables! This is the moment when God becomes man! Miracle of miracles, why do we water it down with our rose colored glasses? He did not spring from a lotus blossom, he was born. This is the very foundation of our faith - God made man - a Son has been given - God with us - Emmanuel.
I have lain post-partum on my hospital bed after 37 hours of labor, crying tears of joy as I gaze in awe at my new born son. I can feel Mary's relief, joy, wonder, and exhaustion as she collapses into the straw with her own new son. Not well groomed, thin, and peaceful as my nativity scene portrays, I know precisely how her body was bruised, bloody, swollen, stretched, and torn; how her hair and skin was soaked with sweat and her soul with exhaustion.
I know that as she nursed her child she struggled with teeth clenched in pain and frustration. What a beautiful, beautiful scene this is. If I were artistic in any medium I would paint or photograph the famous Madonna - again and again, as it really was, with real women and their babies, nursing in all their natural moist, dirty, awkward, disheveled beauty.
I know that the baby - King of all Creation - did not sleep at night, and neither did Mary. I know the endless hours of crying, screaming, bouncing, singing. I know the weeks of raging emotions that followed, as everything, everything, everything was demanded of Mary again, and again, and again. As hormones and life changes and deep emotions collide and overtake and subside.
When we speak of the virgin birth, the miracle we speak of is in the "virgin" half of the phrase. But what about the miracle of birth, and the miracle that this is God being birthed? The miracle that God imparts through women all over the world, every minute of every day. And the ultimate miracle - that God himself was made man - was born - with all the blood and trauma, and joy, that surrounds any other birth.
How can it be? Hallelujah.