The forecast low tonight in Bethlehem, West Bank, is 34 degrees Fahrenheit, according to weather.com. I know I wouldn’t want to birth a baby outside in that kind of temperature.
If we take Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth literally, and he was born in the evening of a December day, his mother probably started labor in the early morning. Her water probably broke while riding that damn donkey all night trying to find a place to stay in Bethlehem so they could pay their taxes. Leave it to the government to not allow for travel exceptions for pregnant women.
Joseph had to be panicking about the time they pulled up in front of the inn, but according to Luke, he kept a cool head. I’m sure Mary would have preferred to find a place with midwives and their stones and herbs. A barn would not have been her first choice.
Birth is a bloody and noisy event. Jesus may have been sinless, but it doesn’t mean his human form didn’t cause his mother great discomfort, no matter how easy the birth might have been. There’s still placenta and water and blood to contend with. This being her first baby, Mary was probably scared. I know I was when my first child was born. You can educate yourself all you want on childbirth, and Mary most likely had witnessed and probably assisted in several births, but when it’s happening to you, it’s like it’s never happened to anyone. The pain and the pushing is different when feeling it from the inside rather than witnessing it from the outside.
Moments, or even a few hours, after having a baby, the last thing you want is company. You want to get to know your baby, check him out to make sure everything’s there. I think it quite gracious of Mary and Joseph to welcome shepherds into their barn to visit their son.
Whether you take the account of Christ’s birth literally or figuratively, it’s obvious that God asked a lot of Mary and Joseph. God was more than a little arrogant to impregnate a teenage girl who was in love with a man named Joseph and expect Joseph to raise the baby as his own, all the while asking them to trust him. I’d need a few more assurances than that.
I love Christmas Eve for what it is: a time to celebrate the birth of an awesome human being. Not his death or the repercussions of his life, but his birth in a small town in the West Bank. It makes for good reflection on our own birth and family and the way we live our lives at this very moment.