And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
Those of us who are mothers remember well those last weeks of our pregnancy. If you were like me, you had already given up any thought of actually being comfortable; you were now merely trying to find ways to be less uncomfortable. J And the thought of having to make a long trip of eighty miles would have filled any of us with dread. Now, what if you had to make the trip, not by car, but on foot or riding a donkey? Such was the prospect for the young Mary, now carrying God’s Son in her womb, who along with her husband would be making the journey. There had been nothing typical about this pregnancy, and the birth itself would take place under the most extreme circumstances.
When Mary and Joseph finally reached Bethlehem, they were faced with the fact that there was absolutely no room left in all of Bethlehem where they could spend the night, and, even more urgent, where the Baby could be born. (It must have seemed to Mary that this was becoming less and less like the birth of a King.) As Joseph tried to make her as comfortable as possible in the stable where they were forced to finally bed down for the night, did her faith waver? And during the time of her labor, and especially as the pains grew harder and closer, did she cry out to God? If she did, I would not think any less of her. “But she has lived for nine months with the Son of God within her,” you say. Yes, I know, but I’ve lived sixty years with Him dwelling within me, and I still find myself doubting at times. Let’s not ask any more of this young woman than we would of ourselves.
Later, looking into the face of her Newborn, I cannot help but think that any uncertainty that may have been in the heart of Mary was swept away. In answer to the songwriter who wondered whether Mary knew that when she touched her Baby Boy, she had touched the face of God, I have to say, “Yes.” She could not have known what lay ahead for this Child, and by extension, she herself, but she knew He had come from God to save His people from their sins. She was unaware of the price He would have to pay in order to be the Savior. There would be time enough for that realization. For now, she would hold Him close to her, and marvel at the adoration of the shepherds (v.15-16), and later, the gifts of the wise men from the East (Matt. 2:11). Luke says that she kept all these things to herself, and “pondered them in her heart” (v.19).
Before we continue with Mary’s story, think with me a little about Mary’s experience of a supernatural birth... and our own.
They both involved Divine choice and human acceptance. The angel was sent to a specific, chosen virgin (v.26-27), but Luke is careful to tell us about Mary’s acceptance of the will of God (1:38). Ephesians one says you and I were chosen in him “before the foundation of the world,” yet the Apostle John tells us that only those who receive Him become “sons of God” (John 1:12)
Then, both were supernatural with no man involved. Again, in each case, it is the Holy Spirit of God who placed the seed (cp. Luke 1:34-35; 1 Pet. 1:23).
Lastly, both births began a progressive formation of Christ within. We read in Luke that after nine months, Mary was “great with child.” The Christ Child had been forming within her all the time. Paul told the people of Galatia that he travailed for them in birth, “until Christ be formed in you” (Gal.4:19), and in Romans eight, God saved us in order to “conform” us “to the image of his Son” (Rom.8:29).
There are many reasons why you and I may feel a kinship to Mary, not the least of which is that we have within us the same Son of God she carried in her womb. And just as the Christ Child grew and formed within her, He will do the same within us. I’d like to think my body, soul, and spirit are all becoming more and more “accommodating” to the Holy One that abides within me. I want Him to so consume me that I am “uncomfortable” in a world system that denies Him.
Oh, dear little Mary, how blessed you were! But, oh, too, how blessed am I; for I can say with Paul, “Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).
- to be continued -