During the Christmas season there is no shortage of imagery depicting the scene of Jesus’ birth. We see paintings of a sweet baby curled up in a manger, his parents lovingly gazing down at him. We see nativity sets with the shepherds and magi bowed down on their knees, the cattle and sheep looking on adoringly.
Two years ago I wouldn’t have batted an eye at these romanticized portrayals of the Christmas story.
But now, having since given birth to a baby myself, I realize these depictions are probably a far cry from the reality of that holy night.
3 Ways Giving Birth Changed My Perspective on the Christmas Story
1. I have a whole new level of respect for Mary.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I will say that giving birth was hard. Really, really hard. I don’t think you can fully grasp just how painful those contractions are until you’ve experienced them for yourself.
But for as difficult as my labor was, I read the Christmas story and am reminded that I went through it in the comfort of a hospital room, not in a dirty stable.
I hadn’t spent the past who knows how many days riding on a donkey, which must have wreaked havoc on Mary’s back. Giving birth is a bloody, messy, and undignified process, but I had nurses at the ready to clean everything up; did Mary have such a luxury? And let’s not forget that wonderful modern invention called an epidural.
If I admired Mary before, I am in awe of her now, knowing she went through the anguish of childbirth under the most uncomfortable of conditions.
2. I realize the strength of Mary and Joseph’s relationship.
Right after my son was born, my husband and I fell more in love than ever before. We couldn’t stop smiling at each other as we grasped the fact that together we had created this beautiful little life.
Mary and Joseph didn’t have that, and it makes me wonder what they were thinking when they looked at each other. We know from Luke 2:19 that Mary was reflective, treasuring the moments in her heart. But isn’t it possible those moments were also a little bit awkward? Did they ever look at each other and think, are we as crazy as some people say we are?
Looking down at a baby they didn’t create together – a baby whose very existence they couldn’t fully understand – Mary and Joseph could have been driven apart.
But instead they trusted in God and in each other, and that’s pretty powerful.
3. I see just how much faith Jesus asks of us.
Sure, babies are sweet and adorable when they first enter the world. But they are also utterly helpless and – if we’re being totally honest – kind of disgusting. They spit up a whole lot, and a whiff of their diapers is enough to make you woozy.
So for the shepherds to get on their knees and declare a tiny, vulnerable, stinky baby their Savior and divine king? It must have seemed a tad bit ludicrous, and certainly required a lot of faith.
The same amount, in fact, that Jesus still wants of us now.
The reality of the night of Jesus’ birth – with all its pain and messiness and awkwardness – isn’t always apparent in the nativity scenes and artwork. I never even thought about it before giving birth myself.
But now I realize just how powerful it is that God sent his son not in a blaze of glory and light, but as a crying baby covered in goop.
I recognize how demanding childbirth was for Mary, how strong her relationship with Joseph must have been, and how much faith the shepherds must have had.
And most importantly, I see how Jesus defied all expectations right from the start, how he immediately humbled himself in incredible ways.
The Christmas scene almost certainly wasn’t as peaceful and serene as the renderings would have us believe, but that only makes the coming of our Savior even more amazing.
How has giving birth or having children changed your perspective on the Christmas story, if at all?
Image via bjearwicke on sxc.hu