The Greatest (Birth) Story (N)Ever Told
So aside from the hoopla surrounding the material and secular aspects of the Christmas celebration, it is at its core a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. What seems to get very little attention is the fact that it’s also a celebration of Mary’s birth story. The fact that every Nativity scene I’ve ever seen always shows her without a hair out of place and completely clothed in the cleanest and driest of clothes when she’s supposedly just given birth leads me to think that not many people have ever thought too deeply about her story.
So the basic story says that Mary, a heavily pregnant, teenaged virgin, goes with her husband, Joseph, to the city of Bethlehem in order for him to take part in a census. They make this trek by foot or donkey and it takes several days. Once they arrive in Bethlehem, they find that they have no place to stay except for a stable. Mary ends up giving birth to Jesus and then lays him in a manger.
Let’s think about this. She’s in her third trimester (presumably) and is riding around on a donkey for days over unpaved terrain for days.. She’s a first time mother-to-be and she’s leaving her home to go to a city where she may or may not know anyone. They finally arrive and she has to sleep in a stable…with animals, that probably make a bunch of noise, smell, and get in the way. Oh, and it’s probably cold.
I don’t know about anyone else but to me that sounds awful.
Nowhere in any telling of the Nativity I’ve heard is there any mention of how Mary might have felt about her birth experience. Did she have a midwife, other women around, or was it just she and Joseph? Was she scared? How much did she know about birth beforehand? Was her labour long or short?
We’ll likely never know the answer to these questions just like we’ll never know how much of the story of Christ’s birth is accurate. However, if it is accepted that the birth of Jesus was special, and that his mother, Mary, was especially chosen then she should be venerated with more than a superficial acknowledgement of her role.
And really, that should be true of all mothers on the anniversaries of their children’s births.