Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It had been a rough couple of days. The traveling had been hard, as pregnant as she was. Nothing was comfortable. Not walking. Not riding. Not even sitting and resting was comfortable. And she was always out of breath.

Then, that last day, the baby dropped, and she was really uncomfortable. She felt so heavy. And the contractions were so, well, not quite painful, but pleasant they weren't. She had wondered, during each one, is this the beginning for real?

Wandering all over Bethlehem with Joseph, as he looked up his relatives who lived in town. Discovering at each house that they already had a bunch of guests staying. No room. No room. And the whispers, that no one had really tried to keep her from overhearing... "Joseph is Waaaay too nice...." "Did you hear what he told his mom, some ridiculous dream..." "That's not as ridiculous as the story She gave--an angel no less!" "Well, she's not staying in my house. She might make a fool of Joseph, but not me...."

Finally, among strangers, a kind face. No room. "But yer missus definitely needs to lie down; she's looking pale. Go round back to the shed and make yourselves a bed on the hay."

It was warm and quiet, and at last the contractions began to settle in regular and deep. She remembered with a smile what her mom had told her, "By the time your labor starts, you'll be so uncomfortable that you'll be glad."

Did she have a midwife? Surely Joseph dashed out and found a midwife to help guide Mary and the baby through their perilous time... or was it just Joseph by her side, whispering encouragement, trying to remember all the animal husbandry a good carpenter knew?

And then it was finished. And the child was the most beautiful child she had ever seen. Ten perfect toes. Ten perfect fingers. Such beautiful eyes. Such a perfect mouth. She cleaned him off, and nursed him, and wrapped him in his swaddling clothes to keep him warm, and laid him in a manger of clean, sweet-smelling hay, whispering, "Jesus. Little Jesus. The angel said to name you Jesus, sweetheart... such a perfect child..." And his little eyes closed, and he slept.

Suddenly, she was so tired. She remembered the whispers and the mockers. Joseph was a good man, but what if he decided her story was too ridiculous after all? It did sound ridiculous... an angel no less! What if he...? Oh Lord, help me. Then her fears and her worries and her tired fretting were interrupted by a knock on the door.

A dirty ragged man peered around the door. Behind him, in the dark, others stood craning their necks this way and that, trying to catch a glimpse inside. He looked vaguely embarrassed, but hopeful, almost pleading. "Um, excuse me, mister, ma'am. Um, I, um.... Well, this is going to sound crazy... but, um, there was this angel.... well, actually, there was a whole bunch of 'em.... well, ok, at first there was only one...." Yes, yes, let them all come in. Let them see.

The whole story came out slowly, as the ragged shepherds clustered round the sleeping baby, touching him with reverent fingers and looking at him with shining eyes. Murmuring to each other, "What was it the angel said? Good tidings of great joy..." "A savior, Christ the Lord, the angel called him..." "And here he is, in the manger, just like...." "It was like thunder, all of them together--Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men--just like thunder..." A few of them were wiping away tears with the backs of their hands, a few just smiled foolishly at the babe, as they murmured the story back and forth to each other.

Mary sighed happily. Such unlikely comforters! Everything they said, she treasured in her heart. She looked at Joseph, and saw that the lines of tension around his eyes had eased. He looked at her and smiled, as if to say Not so ridiculous after all, eh? He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Definitely a special baby. Definitely a special mama."

Have a merry merry delightful and special Christmas! May we all always receive the comfort and support we need, during our own times of doubt. And God bless us, everyone.


Annie said...

How nice to see you after a long break and what a wonderful way to return to us with the Christmas story. God Bless you and fill you and your loved ones with much love, joy, and peace in this coming year. Annie

Martin Kelley said...

Thanks for bringing some color to the classic story. I could almost see the expression on the relatives' faces!

Shawna said...

Thank you, Annie. Blessings and peace on your house also! I hope not to take such a long hiatus in the future... that darned real life intruded a bit on cyberlife...

Hi, Martin! I always thought that it seemed odd that there were no relatives in Joseph's hometown who they could stay with. Particularly since Mary was 9-months pregnant, I was always puzzled why she didn't merit one of the family's nicer guest spaces. Then, someone explained to me that the word "inn" in the Bible is actually more accurately translated as "guest room."

Possibly, Mary and Joseph never actually dealt with an innkeeper at all, but with relatives who told them there wasn't any room in the house, but they could sleep in the storage shed with the donkey and the cow.

And then I was puzzled why a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth would be told such a thing. In my family, we'd all be vacating rooms and sleeping in the hall, to make room for such a one. And then the light went on in my dense little head.... Ooooohhhh yeeaahh....

Mary was very nice to her inlaws when she told her story to Luke, I think.