This is my favorite story.
The one where God seems to have left his people and the earth itself seems desperate for a solution and everyone is wondering what the fuck comes next.
And the answer comes.
As a child.
It sounds like the pathetic cry of a baby born in a time and place he wasn’t supposed to.
It smells like amniotic fluid and donkey dander.
It tastes like the kiss of a mother who doesn’t need anything to make sense for her to love her son as if nothing has existed before.
It looks inconvenient and messy; like an unplanned pregnancy and a schmuck who stuck around.
It feels like the kicks and head turns she knew inside, but outside now, against her breast.
This is my favorite story because it is True, here, at my own out-of-place. With the children born to the version of me who is burdened—maybe not by an angel to carry the savior of the world or whatever, but by generations of aching desperation. By wounds inflicted upon me and from my own hands. By the desire for a world I cannot always see.
Becoming a mother didn’t have to happen in a stable for it to shake my whole foundation. I didn’t have to deliver the messiah to be made new.
It’s a messy process. And a lot of it feels like bullshit… or sheepshit, I guess. Mary’s depiction always seems so stoic. She is serene, angelic, gazing at her child, fully clothed and full of glow.
But I have been in the birthing space more times than I can count and even my most well-mannered friends take their sweat-stuck shirts off at some point.
One of my friends was talking about how little we really get in the biblical narrative about the details of Mary’s delivery. And how, at that time, the animals were kept in or very near the owner’s personal house so the offer of a barn was an invitation of hospitality. How it’s not unlikely that there was a midwife around in the town over-full of people and that someone sent word and brought help.
Every birth is the hope of something new. Trained professionals get teary eyed. Friends and family gather and bless. People act differently around a woman in the late stages of pregnancy. There is an element of protection. Of trust. You are carrying the hope for us.
So what if Mary’s birth wasn’t stoic at all. What if, even among strangers, someone grabbed a blanket and someone called a midwife and someone brought her water as she labored in the night—terrified, yet faithful, like every single mother who has come before and who would follow?
And what if Jesus was born into the very best of us?
To the warm generosity of an oppressed people. To the kindness of an innkeeper. The worried optimism of a father-to-be. The furious devotion of a mother-becoming. The genuine celebration of working class and kings alike.
Jesus would die to the worst of us. To our fear and cowardice. To our selfishness and cruelty. To the enmity and hatred that come along with our lack of faith.
But what he came into was worth what would take him out. The worst of us was overcome-able to him because he had experienced what we all experience to some degree.
This is my favorite story because when I see the worst—and there is so much of it shoved in our faces every day—I cling to reminders that beneath all of that there is so much Good here. There is hospitality that takes risks and gentleness that cradles the most vulnerable and childlike wonder that breaks through the most severe overwhelm.
Whether it’s a story you believe or not, engage in with religious practice or roll your eyes at as you pass it on someone’s lawn, whatever you can take from it is for you. I hope it brings you comfort.