Am I the only one who gets weepy when thinking about Mary giving birth in a stable? It’s a recent thing that’s happened to me in the last several years. I’m sure it has everything to do with having experienced two pregnancies / labors / vaginal deliveries- each that went completely different from the other.
Every time I look at a nativity during Christmastime I can’t help but think about what that was like. I have this weird “gift” that allows me to “be somewhere else.” I’m sure there’s a word for it. The one that comes to mind is “guided imagery.” I think about the dust, the straw, the noises the animals were making, the noises of the city, Bethlehem, a buzz with travelers there to be counted for the census. I think about the lack of everything… I mean, she wasn’t even in her stable where she’d have a least known where they kept the buckets or the rags or whatever you kept in a stable in those days. It was a stranger’s stable- in a town not her own. She didn’t have a midwife. And while the Bible doesn’t say it, I don’t think I’m too out of place in assuming that Joseph did not have ANY experience in delivering babies. And I highly doubt he had any clue what a placenta was.
Yet in the midst of all of it, He was born. She had cloths to wrap him in and a feeding trough to lay Him in, but that’s it. While some of us may have welcomed family and close family members into our delivery rooms after we birthed our babies, she welcomed strangers- unannounced shepherds.
We look at our nativities and see a fully dressed Mary with a head covering kneeling over her baby boy. But, let’s face it, right after you deliver a baby, the average woman waddles. You bleed. And if your milk comes in on day one, you’re experiencing fire flowing through your milk ducts as they open.
I think about all of these things now when I look at Mary in a stable. The reality of what happened that night in just that one piece of the story.
She gave birth in a stable. She recovered in a stable. She received guests in a stable. She learned how to nurse her baby in a stable.
I had my husband and my mom and nurses and doctors tending to me and then lactation consultants and chaplains and you name it the next day coming in to complete their checklists.
She had sheep and donkeys and goats and whatever else… and a baby. A very important baby. The most important baby.
God chose to bring that baby into the world in a stable: a place of filth (we’re talking animal waste filth y’all) and a place of isolation (no one else was bunking up in there).
When I get to Heaven one day, I would love to hear Mary share “Jesus’s birth story”- you know, in the same way we share our children’s birth stories with our girlfriends. The reality of delivering a baby in a stable shakes me, and what’s more is it was God’s plan.
He chose for His Son to be born in that place. Jesus, the one who created the universe, was going to be a helpless newborn sleeping in straw mere feet away from animal poop. If that isn’t a demonstration of humility, I don’t know what is.
The Christmas Story from beginning to end is full of incredible details, but in this season of life that I find myself in, raising little ones, the actual birth of Christ and the image of a postpartum Mary in a stable, overwhelms me.
What a way for God to bring His Son into the world that He Himself created. What love. What a Christmas.