For the past two years, I’ve written an ode to Mary on Christmas day. I’m reposting them below with an addition for this year.
I’ve been thinking about Mary a lot today. However you feel about the Bible and the story of Jesus’ birth, bear with me while we think about the details of that night. Even if the whole thing is made up, whoever thought up the story had a wild imagination. And if it’s true, woman deserves Mother of All Time award.
Mother, about the burst, riding on a donkey. Maybe her water had already broken. Or was it all that riding that did it? But then they get to Bethlehem and there is no room. No room! Labor. Contractions. A baby is coming and there is no room for this poor woman to lie down. Until finally some inn keeper takes pity and says they can stay in his barn.
Yes, we are talking about the olden days, but even back then a mother would FREAK OUT about giving birth among animals. The smell. The dirt. The poop. And yet that’s what she did. She gave birth – unassisted? Who was there to help her? Did Joseph man up and catch the baby and cut the umbilical cord?
And then all these strangers started showing up to meet the baby. The poor woman. She must have been exhausted after riding in on that donkey and giving birth amongst those animals. She just wants to sleep and learn how to breastfeed and sleep and who are all these people?!?!
She is often depicted with a halo around her head. I didn’t think much of it until now but it is well deserved. The Bible was written by men, right? What’s your story, Mary?
Merry Christmas. Thank you, Mary, for courageously bringing a baby into the world in one of the weirdest and worst labor and delivery suites.
Mary, Part Deux (2013)
But what about the day after?
The three wise men have already shown up at the door to the stable to worship the baby Mary has just delivered. She is in so much pain, the baby is hungry, Joseph didn’t know what to do with the placenta, so it’s rotting in the corner, hidden by a bunch of hay. Mary’s first visitors are strangers, giving her son gifts that have no practical purpose. Where are the warm blankets? A soft doll? Food for Mary?
And besides dealing with the men and their strange gifts, there’s Joseph, who has been acting strange all night. He still doesn’t believe her that this baby is a miracle. Calm down, Joseph, I didn’t cheat on you. He doesn’t look like you because you’re not his father. No man is his father. Do I sound crazy? Mary wonders.
And where are they going now that the baby has been born. She’s not getting back onto that donkey, not after a baby has just been extracted from her womb. Will they find adequate lodging? When will the animals stop braying and pooping and waking up her baby?
And this baby. The son of God. How could she be entrusted to raise him? What had she done to be the chosen one to carry him and be his mother? As Mary looked at this screaming, hungry child, she marveled at everything. But mostly she was just tired and thirsty and wanted to get the hell out of this barn.
Mary, Mother of God (2014)
And now, three months later, Mary is tired. Motherhood is kicking her butt. No one told her that the hardest part of mothering comes after labor, which was no picnic. Caring for this tiny infant who just cries and cries and cries is not what motherhood was supposed to be. Isn’t this baby the son of God? Where’s the godliness at 2am when she just wants to sleep?
And Joseph, well, he’s not making it any easier. When he gets home from work, and Mary hands the baby to him for a break, as soon as the baby cries, he says, “I think he’s hungry” and hands the baby back. Mary is hungry too.
And yet even through the crying and the sleepless nights, Mary doesn’t know how she’s ever going to say goodbye. Because really, this baby isn’t hers. He belongs to everyone. His sacrifice is also hers as no mother should ever have to watch her baby die. Someday soon, sooner than she can imagine, he will walk away to save the world.
As she looks down at the perfect face with the chubby cheeks and hint of hair, even though it’s 4am and Joseph will be up in an hour wanting breakfast, Mary is overcome with emotion. She has to start preparing to say goodbye now. Even if Jesus wasn’t the son of God, he would leave her one day to find a wife and start a family of his own. She would have to say goodbye no matter what. Mary doesn’t feel up to the task, the magnitude of what’s she’s been asked to do. A daughter-in-law would’ve been easier to deal with.
But right now, he is only a baby. So Mary will rock him and nurse him and tell him stories, because even though he will leave her one day, right now he belongs to her.