I’ve been thinking a bit about Mary over the last week or so. You know, Mary… as in the “Virgin Mary”, “Mother of God”, the one who gave birth to Jesus. She is the mother in the Christmas story, so I thought we should take a moment to think about the world’s most famous mum.
My sister gave birth last week. I was reminded of just how scary and traumatic childbirth can be. Even though the Christmas Carols like Silent Night and Away in a Manger make out as though the first Christmas was an idyllic nirvana of peace and tranquility, with cattle gently lowing over a sleeping baby Jesus, the reality is that Jesus’ entry into the world is likely to have been anything but peaceful.
Let’s just think about what that night would have really been like for Mary.
She was most likely a young girl of 14 or 15. She’d just traveled all day to Bethlehem and she’s camped under the house with the animals, about to give birth for the first time – with no epidural, no gas, no heat pack, maybe not even anyone to help her deliver the baby. Then, as if his safe arrival into the world isn’t enough of a miracle, she has to figure out how to look after this baby! (It’s not as though she had a breastfeeding DVD with little animations demonstrating correct attachment techniques and five different positions for burping.) So whether she had an angel telling her to chill out or not, I doubt Mary was feeling completely peaceful. (If you want to get a sense of what it might have been like there’s a great childbirth scene in the movie Children of Men that pretty much nails it.)
Then, just as her second degree tears are healing up and she’s getting used to feeding every three hours, cooking Joseph’s dinner with her one free arm, and functioning on four hours’ sleep a night, a rumour gets around to King Herrod that a new king has been born in Bethlehem. So Herrod orders that every infant under the age of one be killed. So Mary and Joseph pack their bags again, pick up their newborn and hike over to Egypt to get away from the crazy King. So not only was Mary a new Mum at 14, she was also a refugee, living in a foreign land. And on top of that, she’s got this added anxiety that this child is going to be someone really special. So every time he gets a temperature or a runny nose she’s going to be thinking, “Well, you better get better.” I mean that girl was under some serious pressure. But she did what she had to do to protect her son, to nuture him and shape him into the man he turned out to be. Only to watch him die thirty years later.
So whether you believe in the virgin birth or not, it’s not so hard to see a miracle in that first Christmas. And it’s not difficult to understand why Mary, the mum of Jesus, is still revered 2000 years on. Good on ya, Mum. And Merry Christmas.