Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jesus: A Fictionalized Birth Story of the First Christmas

This year I’ve been extremely moved by the birth of Jesus. Now that I am a mother myself I understand a little bit of what Mary must have felt and experienced… to a point. On top of never having birthed the messiah, I am a happily married grown-up who, you know, wasn’t exactly shocked by my pregnancies. I’ve read and heard so many times that Mary was an estimated 14 years old when she gave birth to Jesus. I think about all of it—traveling by donkey at, like, ten months pregnant! Delivering your baby in a barn full of animals! None of the women you know and trust to guide you, a teenage carpenter acting as your midwife!—and then I consider that on top of all that, she was about 14 years old!
I don’t know that I would ever have been mature enough to have a baby, almost by myself, in a barn. My husband is a grown-up who has witnessed childbirth three times and has basic first aid knowledge. Even still, I shudder at the thought of Ryan delivering our next baby, just the two of us and a bunch of smelly animals in a dirty barn, with nothing but hay and dirty cloth to wrap our baby in.
It all makes me very emotional (to be fair, what doesn’t?) and as you probably know by now, writing is my favorite and most trusted outlet when things feel a little overwhelming.
I am in the baby-birthing stage of life myself, and I’m also in the middle of the editing stage for a book of spiritual birthstories I have coming out June 2017. Birth stories are very intense and meaningful for me right now.
For those reasons I sat down after Thanksgiving and started to write up a FICTIONALIZED birth story for Mary. It has been difficult to actually sit down to write these days so it’s taken a lot longer than I ever wanted… but honestly, it ended up being so wonderful. I had basically two solid weeks to think about it and slowly process it, and then last Thursday my church moms’ group did a little talk on what it must have been like to be Jesus’ mom.
I’d like to reiterate that this is very much fiction, just my own guesses at the emotional side of Jesus’ birth. I think the story is most meaningful if you start by reading (or listening to!) the story from scripture, Luke 1:11-2:40, and then come back to my story here.


I don’t even know where to start. How do you start a story like this? I guess I have to start before the pregnancy.
I know you’re not going to believe this, but I was a virgin. I mean, even while I was already pregnant. I know that’s hard to believe but I swear it’s true. An angel of the Lord appeared to me one day and he told me I was going to be overcome by the Holy Spirit and carry a baby. He said it would be a boy, which I would name Jesus, and that he was a king. The son of God.
As crazy as it sounds, I believed it.
Joseph and I were engaged at that point and I must not have slept at all, worrying over what this would mean for us. How do you tell your fiancée, whom you have never slept with, “Surprise! I’m pregnant! But don’t worry, it’s just God’s baby.”
If it wasn’t confusing enough to imagine pregnancy when I was still a virgin, and then to imagine giving birth to and raising God’s son, I also had to consider how I could possibly do it on my own. Why would Joseph still marry me? What was my life—and this baby’s life—going to look like?
God was looking out for me from the start and, as you know, Joseph committed to stay by my side.
He was such a comfort and blessing to me throughout the pregnancy… which was a lot more important than I would have guessed it would be.
You might think being pregnant with the messiah would be “heavenly” or “glorious.” I guess in some ways it was. Sometimes I was just overcome with these feelings of peace, or I’d be minding my own business and then all the sudden just feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I would be chosen to carry such a special and important baby.
But honestly, it was kind of hard too. First there was morning sickness. I just felt like I was going to throw up all the time. I knew I needed to eat, to feed the baby and keep my own strength up, but nothing sounded even remotely appetizing. And I was just so tired. I would sleep like a rock, all night long, yet the moment I woke up I just wanted to go right back to sleep.
I felt pretty good for a while, at least better than I had at first, but then towards the end things got miserable again. I just felt so heavy and exhausted, and I had awful heartburn no matter what I ate. I had so many strange little pains in my belly, I guess from all the stretching, and I must have thought for two or three whole months that there was no way I could get any bigger! The baby’s kicks and movements started to get uncomfortable, like he was running out of room.
The physical stuff was hard, but the emotional stuff was worse. For one thing, it felt like my heart was on a roller coaster. Some days I was just so happy, happy, happy to be carrying this precious little miracle. Other days I was angry or sad for the silliest reasons. Then I would feel anxious and guilty. How could a mother feel like that? How could I possibly raise the son of God when I am so incredibly human? Then I’d be fine again, picturing myself holding a precious little baby… and then anxious again wondering what it was going to be like, mothering this child. Would he be like other children? Would I have any clue what to do with him? How would I know how to discipline him or comfort him? What kinds of things would I need to teach him? What if I didn’t do a good job? How could I be his mother?
I was terrified to have this baby but so ready to not be pregnant anymore by the time he came. I just wasn’t expecting things to happen the way they did.

It started with the census. Everyone had to go and register in their hometown. Joseph is from the house of David so he needed to register in Bethlehem. Since we were engaged, I had to register there too.
The possibility of giving birth along the way had definitely crossed my mind. It seemed like I couldn’t be pregnant much longer and I thought a lot about what might be easiest or what we might do if they baby came before we left, or if he came before we could get there. I knew it would be easiest if he came after we had returned home… but that also meant so. much. more. pregnancy.
I rode most of the way on a donkey, which, as you can imagine, is even more uncomfortable while pregnant. I’ll never forget that journey. In some ways it was miserable, me being so pregnant and uncomfortable… but it was also exciting. It was wonderful to spend so much time talking to Joseph.
We were talking about the baby and some of the things we were excited to do with him some day, and at some point I told Joseph I needed to take a break.
He told me we were almost there and asked if I could wait a little longer. “Honestly? I don’t think so.”
I had woken up feeling really uncomfortable the night before… but that was happening often enough that I was pretty confident it was just part of pregnancy.
By late afternoon though, things were feeling a little different. I was very uncomfortable now, and every few minutes my entire belly felt a pain I can’t even explain. It was a bit like a squeezing sensation, and it was starting to make my back ache and my legs shake.
Everything blurs together after that and I have a very confusing sense of time. I just remember crying while Joseph rubbed my back. It hurt so bad, I didn’t want to move! But he eventually convinced me it would be best to get back on the donkey and find an inn.
I don’t know how many inns we checked, but I know they were all full. So many people had traveled for the census that there was nowhere for us to stay. This was worse than my worst nightmare.
I was in so much pain and I had never felt so scared! Joseph was very comforting, but there was a nervous tremor to his voice that made me feel panicky. How could this be happening?! Not like this!
Finally, he hugged me tight and told me, “We have nowhere to go. This innkeeper offered to let us stay with his animals and I think we need to do it.”
I was hurting so bad at that point that I could barely even talk. That wasn’t what I wanted, but it was better than having nowhere to go! I squeezed his hand, nodded my head, and let him lead me into the stable.

I remember lying down, rolling over to try to find a position that hurt less, begging Joseph to push on my lower back, and crying. At some point I asked him, “How much longer?” He gave me the saddest smile and said, “Just a little,” and then his eyes filled up with tears and he said, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” I remember feeling so much comfort from that moment, just knowing he cared and was still there for me.
When it was happening, with all the pain and all the fear, it felt like days. But when I look back on it now, it seems like it was just a couple of hours.
I leaned over to throw up, but instead of throwing up my body started pushing the other way. I could feel the baby pushing himself out and I told Joseph, “He’s coming now!”
I remember smiling when I said it, and then laughing at myself. I couldn’t believe I could find a way to smile when everything hurt so badly, nothing had gone the way I had hoped, and I was surrounded by animal noises and stench. But I smiled, and then Joseph smiled back.
It wasn’t very long after that before he caught our tiny, slippery little boy and handed him up to me. I was so tired—I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired—but I was wide awake. At last, my baby had come.
King of Kings.
Joseph helped me wrap him up and then his crying stopped and he just calmly cuddled up in my arms and looked at my face, like he already knew I was his mother.
I looked down at his little face and I just fell in love with him. I’ve never felt any kind of love like I did then. He was so beautiful, so perfect. He looked wise, like he knew so many things he just couldn’t say yet. I couldn’t believe this tiny little miracle was really mine, my gift from God. I remember feeling so overwhelmed in that moment—his beauty, the exceptional pain finally being over, the crushing and awe-inspiring responsibility of raising God’s son—and I just hugged him and cried. Even Joseph, who is always so strong, shed a few tears.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. I don’t know how I am going to raise the son of God, or what exactly that is going to mean—for him or for me—but right now I am still somehow filled with the most beautiful, undeniable feeling of peace. I do not know what lies ahead for my family, but I know that we will be okay. 

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