The Christmas parade was on Saturday and I’m very happy about how well everything went. No one fell off, nothing else fell off either, and we gave out hundreds of tracts and candy canes to a very receptive audience. Pastor Gray was right when he said that people’s hearts are more open in the Christmas season.
The whole time we’ve been putting the float together and preparing for the parade, I just keep thinking about Mary, that night in Bethlehem…do we really ever sit down and think about what she went through? She had a baby, in a barn, by herself! The bible says that “and she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) It doesn’t say anything about fancy birth centers and hospital rooms. It doesn’t say anything about doctors or nurses or midwifes. It doesn’t say that her mother or her sister or her best friend from college took the babe and wrapped him and handed him to her while she was propped on pillows after her ordeal.
She gave birth to him. She cleaned him immediately after. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Just her.
She laid him in a manger.
What would you have said if your hospital brought in a horse trough filled with hay and tried to lay your newborn in it? Would you have willingly laid your precious little bundle down? I know I wouldn’t have.
Better than anyone, I know what our barn looks like every day–and i know what it looks like after it’s been moved to fresh ground, cleaned, and bedded down with fresh straw for the winter. I know what our feed troughs look like daily–and I know what they look like after they’ve been scrubbed out and even bleached and then refilled. I know the lengths we go to make it clean and sanitary for our sheep to lamb on.
And even on cleaning day, I wouldn’t want to give birth out there.
Then all these complete strangers came calling to see the baby! These days they suggest you don’t even let family hold the baby too much the first couple weeks because of germs. How many of us would be willing to put our little one out on display for a bunch of strangers that just showed up out of the fields? A bunch of rough, smelly shepherds?
And just about the time you and I would have been getting back on our feet and into our daily lives again, about two weeks later I think, she has to pack up and hike all the way back to Nazareth.
After pondering all these things in my own heart, I am just overwhelmed by how strong and courageous and humble Mary was through all of this! What a graceful spirit under pressure! What a servant-heart!
And boy, oh boy, does my own heart and character look dull and tarnished next to that!
Having had a newborn right at Christmas (the Cowboy) and having been pregnant through Christmas (with Speedracer), these are things that I have dwelled on deeply before. (Pregnancy and motherhood sort of evokes deep thoughts–it comes as part of the fog of sleeplessness.) And each time I come back to these words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word..” (Luke 1:38)
Such perfect surrender to God’s will. Such beautiful obedience.
Thank you, Lord, for laying her before us as an example.
I miss the mark so often, but at least I know what I’m shooting for.