It is strange to have a newborn baby right around the time of Christmas. Talk about a very real object lesson. We hear from the pulpit about the preciousness of the gift of Jesus and his humbling himself to come down to earth as a person to walk with us and give himself up for us. We hear songs of an infant born to the Virgin Mary, a swaddled babe sleeping peacefully in a manger. We see nativities with a serene bundle in a trough and smiling parents beaming down upon this blessed child, usually with hands prayerfully clasped. It makes you wonder though, I look at my precious baby whom I have just spent hours pacing our apartment to put to sleep, who can go from innocent and angelic to a screaming red faced imp in a moment, what was He like as a baby? I don’t know about original sin, I do think we come into this world with a sinful nature and I think we come with a drive to survive. Babies are the epitome of ‘survival mode,’ all they know is there own needs. They need to sleep, eat, be held, and poop and if any of these things hurts or isn’t happening they let you know, loud and clear. Crying is their form of communication and while it hurts our ears and causes psychological pain for mothers in the beginning it is an innocent deploring for help. They can’t feed themselves, they can’t clothe themselves, they need human contact and love and the only way to let you know is to wail.
Later on in life crying can become manipulative a wailing to make you do what I want, rather than an honest display of need. Hungry, tired, cold, I need love expands to I don’t want to share my toy, I don’t want to nap right now, and I don’t want to eat peas. Was Jesus never tempted to do these things? Did he not cry as a baby? I’m too realistic to believe that Jesus didn’t cry in Mary’s arms. In fact he may even have had a massive case of colic, where he screamed for hours on end. Did she want to flick him when he bit or squirmed during nursing? Did she cry and get frustrated? Mary may have even been so exhausted that she had irrational thoughts like all mothers. She may have even had post-partum depression. She would certainly be a prime candidate, think of her circumstances; knocked up by heavenly forces at fourteen, engaged to a man who was doubtful of her fidelity (can you imagine trying to explain that, ‘no really I swear, there was an angel and everything’), gave birth after a huge trip on a donkey fleeing for their life, in a barn! No doula, no midwife, no doctor, not even an annoying mother or sister, no women present. Can you picture a modern sterilized birth in those circumstances? Maybe the peaceful nativity scene should actually depict a tear-streaked Mary passed out on a bale of hay and a fumbling Joseph holding a squalling Jesus. Even more was it a hard birth? First births usually are, especially considering that she was a virgin, had no female help, and probably was exhausted emotionally and physically from her journey.
Maybe that’s the beauty of it, that it happened as it did. Jesus was born in a barn, he didn’t need a c-section, which in those days probably would have meant Mary’s death and Jesus’. That even if she was depressed she survived, she did it she brought Jesus into the world healthy, she raised him without the kind of support that we have today. Maybe that is the miracle that a baby was born with all manner of circumstances against him.
While holding my little child in church the other day I thought about this, the miracle of a baby. That this perfect little child is brought into the world. That through the blessing of modern science I and my baby are alive and well. I think we miss the point when we make Mary the perfect mother and the perfect baby. That this gritty, earthy event happened and everyone lived. I think that truly it is a miracle that my husband have made this baby and she is so truly perfect, when so much could’ve gone wrong that everything went so right.
It is humbling to think of my babies very dependence on me and my husband’s fumbling hands, and that Jesus entrusted himself to parent’s younger than us and a birth less medically protected than ours. He willingly acquiesced to the dangerous and delicate life of a human, just to make sure that we didn’t perish. Is this love or insanity?