Image credit: Waiting for the Word
They say that a baby being born is a beautiful thing. I guess that's true. The baby at least. The being born part was different than I expected.
When Mary went into labor, we were still sleeping in Bethlehem, sleeping in a stable. My aunts gave me the job of taking care of Mary. They were looking after the baby, even though he hadn't arrived yet.
I'm just glad to be old enough to help. I dip a cloth in cool water and wipe Mary's face. Her eyes are closed and she is exhaling deeply. I'm not even sure she knows I'm there. But then she opens her eyes and smiles at me real quick.
She asks for water to drink, and I hurry off to get some. Everyone has had different opinions about this baby. But now that he's coming, opinions are just words. My mother rubs Mary's back while another aunt prepares cloth to wrap the baby when he arrives.
It will be soon. We wait all nervously.
Joseph is outside with the other men. Even though he says it's not his baby, he is anxious. He checks on Mary every once in a while, and he looks at her only with love.
Birth is no simple thing. So much can go wrong, and we've all heard the stories. Mothers lost. Babies who didn't make it. No one speaks it, but we are all focused.
With every groan and every pain, the tension in the stable ebbs and flows. We are accustomed by now to the low moaning of suffering. Mary is not dramatic, but we are all aware of the pain around us.
Finally, it is time to push. My aunts hold Mary's hands. I move out of the way. Everyone is breathing with Mary, ready and waiting. Another aunt guides the baby out into the world.
He cries and we all exhale at once. Peace and joy collide as he cries! The pain is not immediately forgotten, but it has been redeemed in this moment. The crying baby has brought relief to us. And he has unleashed an avalanche of delight.
I wipe Mary's forehead again as she relaxes and lets out a tired laugh. My mother cares for her while the aunts pass around the new baby. Jesus, they call him. They count his fingers and toes and rub his soft head. Everyone is laughing and hollering.
Joseph comes in and sits next to Mary. He pushes her hair out of her face and squeezes her hand. Eventually they will get a turn to hold Jesus, but good luck wrestling him from the aunts! Soon they do hand the baby back to his mother, and tears spill from Mary's eyes. She cuddles him close.
We celebrate healthy birth and a strong mother. It is truly a moment of peace and jubilation in our camp. Welcome to the world, little one!
All posts in this year's Advent series:
1. The Journey
2. The Stable
3. The Birth
4. The Visitors