I have been pregnant during three of the past six Christmases that have passed. Last year as I stood in a candlelight service singing Silent Night and feeling my baby kick, I thought of Mary and her journey into motherhood.
It would not have been a silent night. All was not calm. Mary and Joseph had endured long travels on rough roads, cold nights, and hot days. Her legs cramped. Her back ached. Her contractions began slowly and then rose in intensity. She began to sweat. Fear rose within her as the pain increased.
There were no bring overhead lights, supportive nurses, ice chips to chew, or medications to take off the edge. There were no monitors measuring the baby's heartbeat or blood pressure checks. Nothing was sterile.
There was filthy hay, pungent odors, barn animals, and spilled blood -- and then, when it seemed unbearable -- then, there were cries. Gurgling, screaming cries of a newborn breathing in and exhaling out his first breath; elated, exhausted cries of a mother who had just birthed her first child; overwhelmed, grateful cries of a father who had wanted to provide so much more than these lowly accommodations for the birth of his son.
That baby, that tiny child who nursed from his mother's breast and wrapped his hand around his father's finger, would be named Jesus. He would split history into halves. He would grow in wisdom and stature, confounding the wise, offending the religious, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving the outcast.
He would be loved more deeply and hated more intensely than anyone before. He would be wrongly accused, mocked, battered, ripped, and hung on a cross to die -- bookmarking his entrance and exit into the world with blood and suffering.
But his story would not be finished.
Amazingly, over two-thousand years later, he would save me from the penalty of my sin. He would be my Savior. He would be my Lord. And, perhaps even more amazingly, considering all of this grandness, he would be interested in the daily workings of my life.
Those minor problems, unspoken dreams, and routine nuances that make up my day-to-day existence -- the ones I think matter only to me -- would matter to him.
Emmanuel -- literally, God With Us -- learned to crawl, took his first tentative steps, and scraped his knees when he fell on this earth. He knew what it was like to lose loved ones, to feel rejection, to be misunderstood, and to suffer. He knew what it meant to be human.
And it all started when he was a baby, when he drew in his first breath of air -- the very air he had created, and clung to his mother as she rested after bringing him into this world.