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ADVENT DEVOTION: Thursday, December 10, 2020

Childbirth in Sanctuary

By Stephen Perry

Our son Luke was born in October of last year, and we enjoyed a mostly wonderful Christmas season. Abbie and I were each fortunate enough to receive a substantial amount of parental leave, and we were able to enjoy the Christmas holidays with family and friends, unencumbered by work. Luke’s weekend calendar was not jam-packed with social obligations as of then, and he played the role of Baby Jesus in our church’s nativity scene.

I did not appreciate this last year, but after Mary gave birth to Baby Jesus, like most parents, Mary and Joseph probably had a rough go for the first few months. Having a child is hard – light years harder than Abbie and I were expecting (preaching to the choir for most), and I was unprepared. Each parent has feelings of ecstasy, appreciation, anxiety, stillness, doubt, rage, hilarity, and it sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. We planned to have a natural childbirth (we didn’t), and Genesis 3:16 (“I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth; you’ll give birth to your babies in pain…”) constantly nagged at me. I did not know it would be so difficult for me too.

We don’t talk about Christmas for Mary and Joseph in this way. Maybe Mary experienced pangs of childbirth; maybe she didn’t. We know that Jesus’ birth was challenging for many reasons, and because of the context of His birth, we can assume the “fourth trimester” was too.
 
But we don’t talk about this, and there are no verses or historical records, to my knowledge, that say Mary had a grueling time breastfeeding or that Joseph felt fairly useless. Inspired by the form of our Advent submissions this year, I thought about the list a friend of ours made for items that new parents absolutely, positively must purchase, borrow, or steal during the first couple of months. Things like diapers, nursing pillows, car seats, breast pumps, bottles, bottle brushes, bibs, pacifiers, socks, batteries, baby monitors, white noise machines, nursing bras, swaddles, and booger suckers are a sample of that list. While Mary and Joseph certainly had swaddles in their arsenal, they didn’t have most of these items (or at least, could not have them delivered to Bethlehem in two days).

This Advent season, I am thankful to Abbie for her awe-inspiring work as a new mom and appreciative of all good parents. By all accounts, Mary and Joseph were good parents, but we can assume they had some dark days in the beginning. I am grateful for their willingness to heed God’s call to bring their child into our world and especially grateful now that I understand, though they brought perfection to our world, Jesus was probably not the perfect baby.

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