Diary of a Pregnant Virgin #18

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Dear Diary,

It finally happened. All those months of waiting, worrying, praying, trusting, and it finally happened.

The closer we got to Bethlehem, the more I could feel that it was almost time. I felt my insides clenching and twisting, sharp pains all through my belly. It would come and then subside, and then come again, harder. Joseph was hurrying as fast as he could. Poor guy, he was trying to hold it all together, but he looked frantic. There were so many people! Carts and donkeys and people with bundles and walking sticks, all bumping into each other and shouting. We pushed through the crowd and waited in a line, and Joseph must have paid the taxes, but I don’t really remember that part. I was just trying to remember to breathe and hold my insides in place and not fall off the donkey all at once.

It was dark by the time we started looking for a place to stay. Joseph made our way to the town inn, and we knocked on the door. Then again, louder. Finally, a big burly man opened the door. He had this “what now?” look on his face that made me feel bad for bothering him, but we had no choice.

Joseph said, “I’m sorry to bother you so late, but we’re looking for a room. Do you have anything available?”

The man laughed. “In this crowd? We’ve been full up for days. Seems everyone and his uncle is related to ol’ King David, and they’ve all come here.”

“But don’t you have anything at all?” Joseph pressed. “My wife’s about to have a baby, we just need some place for her to lie down.”

The man looked at me. I was pale and sweating and breathing hard, and I think he felt sorry for me, because he softened a little and said, “Look, I wish I could help you, but we got people in the closets and in the kitchen and every place they can find a few square feet to lay out their blankets. We just don’t have any room left.”

Joseph wasn’t giving up. “Is there another inn in town, or anywhere we can—”

The man shook his head firmly. “Nope, and I’m real sorry, but that’s the fact of it. You’ll just have to figure something out.”

A woman who must have been the man’s wife came to join him at the door. She saw me and instantly her eyes got wide. “Jacob, can’t you see—” she started.

“Of course I see, Ruth, but that don’t change facts,” he insisted.

She turned to Joseph. “We do have the stable—it’s just a cave where we keep the animals, but it should be warm and private.”

Joseph grinned up at me and nodded to her. “Thanks so much, that will be perfect.”

“Jacob will show you the way.” She nudged him. He nodded and grabbed two lamps and handed one to Joseph.

The cave smelled like animals. There is no nice way to say it; this place stank. There were several goats and a cow staring at us, and I think there was a pig asleep in the corner too. But it was out of the wind, and there was plenty of fresh hay which Joseph quickly smoothed out and lay his coat over to make a bed for me. He helped me lay down and then sat next to me, wide eyed and fidgety.

“How are you doing? Are you okay?” he asked, when clearly I was not. The pains were sharper now, and I kept forcing myself to relax when I really just wanted to double over and scream.

He helped me drink some water and then asked, “Should I get a midwife?”

“There’s no time,” I gasped. “We’re going to—have to do this—ourselves.”

I told him to have water and blankets ready, and a knife for the umbilical cord. Then he helped me get into the right position and held my hand.

I knew it would hurt, but I had no idea how much. I felt like I was ripping in half. I remember screaming and clenching and yelling, “Oh, God!” and struggling to breathe while Joseph was saying, “Push, push!”

Then finally, after what felt like hours—it was over. I collapsed in a sweaty mess back on the hay. Then I held my breath and waited.

I heard it. A baby’s cry—loud, and so young, the newest sound on the face of the earth.

Joseph cleaned him up and wrapped him in the cloths I had brought. Then he handed him to me, and I got to hold my son in my arms for the first time.

He was all red and wrinkly, and still screaming, so I shushed him softly while I ran my fingers over his skin. I touched his little nose and ears and the tiny wet hairs. I touched his tiny fingers and tiny curled toes. He was perfect. Red, loud, and perfect. Beautiful.

A sense of awe flooded me. This was the baby that was planted in me by the Spirit of God. He was fathered not by any human, but by God. This was the child the prophets foretold, the king who would bring peace.

“Jesus,” I whispered. I bent down to kiss his tiny forehead. His screams eventually quieted and those tiny brown eyes slowly focused on mine.

This is our Emmanuel. God with us.

Joseph made him a bed of fresh hay in the manger. I spread out a blanket and lay our tiny son in it, asleep now. I lay my head on Joseph’s shoulder, and he wrapped his arms around me.

“Can you believe it, Joseph?” I whispered.

Joseph started to say something but then couldn’t, so he just held me closer and rubbed my arm slowly. He put out his hand to touch the manger and sat still like that, with his head bowed.

I wish that moment could have lasted forever, but after a minute we heard footsteps pounding outside the cave. Joseph jumped up just as a young face burst around the corner. The intruder leaned on the wall gasping for air and staring at us with huge eyes.

In a matter of seconds he was joined by at least half a dozen more, from young boys to old men. They thundered up and then fell abruptly still and silent, staring.

“Can I help you?” Joseph ventured. I saw his hand close over his walking stick.

The oldest of the group stepped forward. “Is this the child? Is this the one who will be the Messiah?”

Joseph looked at them warily. “What makes you say that?”

The old man spoke as if he could hardly believe what he was saying. “We have seen angels. We were just watching our sheep, when all of a sudden—huge angels, lighting up the sky, singing praises to God. They told us we would find the newborn Messiah here, lying in a manger.”

(I have to admit, at this point I was hardly surprised. Compared to the miracle that had just come out of me, more angels was nothing. Joseph and I had certainly seen our share.)

Joseph looked back at me. I looked at the sleeping baby. If God wanted to invite others to share our miracle, then why not? I nodded to my husband.

He stepped aside and let them in. They came forward slowly, eyes locked on the manger. They stopped a few feet away, then one by one they dropped to their knees.

My eyes filled with tears. Out of all the people in the world God could have told. It should have been King Herod or priests or noblemen showing up at the cave to worship, but it was this ragtag little group of shepherds instead, come to see the peasant couple and their baby. In the stinky cave.

Isn’t that so just like him?

I picked up my tiny Jesus and asked the shepherds if they would like to hold him. One by one, with total reverence, they cradled him in their rough hands. I saw leathered faces stream with tears, and I heard boys my own age whispering words of worship as they touched the tiny hands in awe.

The old man looked at me, and recited a verse that I recognized immediately but had somehow forgotten. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler of Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.”

I gasped and reached for Joseph’s hand. All this time, all that stupid long trip, and everything before, it was for God’s plan all along.

The shepherds eventually left and woke up the whole town to tell them what had happened. Everyone came crowding into the stable, and Jesus woke up and started screaming again. Then lo and behold, someone realized they did have a spare room after all, so Joseph and I traveled back into town to sleep in a real bed for the rest of the night.

Wow. Even after writing all that, it still seems so unreal. God chose me—me, Mary from Nazareth!—to give birth to his son. Joseph and I traveled to Bethlehem, and there the Messiah was born on a pile of straw. It sounds crazy, but there it is. It all happened.

God proved everything he has ever told us by sending his own son to be born tonight. He was born naked and red and screaming like any other newborn, but this is no ordinary baby. This is the son of God.

But this whole thing is so much bigger than what happened tonight. The world is about to change. God has started the ball rolling for something bigger than he’s ever done before.

And it’s only just beginning.

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:51

Luke 2:6-20
Micah 5:2

As I finish up this series, I would like to thank Marjorie Holmes for writing the book that inspired this journey, “Two From Galilee.” I would also like to thank all of you who have encouraged me along the way. I hope you have been as blessed to read it as I have to write it. I feel like experiencing this with Mary has pushed me to consider the miracle of Christmas in a whole new depth, to think and pray and trust and worship more truly. One of my most beloved inspirations once characterized writing thus: “Write to discover. There is no greater discovery than love. All love comes from the Creator. Write what you will.” That’s exactly what happened to me. I rediscovered love while writing this, and it drew me closer to the Creator who created himself into the form of a helpless infant who would grow up to change everything. I can only pray it has, on some level, done the same for you.

I’ve been rather surprised to discover as I write that Mary is me. Really, she is all of us. She is the ordinary person chosen for extraordinary things. Her blessings didn’t always look like blessings, but she kept trusting because she realized that God was all she had and his plan is always good. Mary’s trust in God’s promise paved the way for the greatest miracle of all time: God becoming human to show us what love looks like, to rescue us from utter darkness, at the cost of his own life. He chose to be with us, to live life with us, and he died and rose so that he can still live life with us today.

This is our Emmanuel. God with us.

God bless you and merry Christmas.


sjr2010 said...

I finally had the chance to finish reading the whole series. Thank you for writing it, you are truly blessed with a gift for writing.