Wednesday, December 18, 2013
In Her Sandals -- Mary Sees the Face of the Son of God
We arrive in Bethlehem, and it is busting at the seams. People are everywhere. Everyone from David’s lineage is here. Talk about a family reunion! We have no place to stay, and I start to get a bit discouraged and a little weepy. I find myself getting weepy from time-to-time. Inn after inn manager tells us they are full and beyond capacity. We finally find an inn manager who says he will let us stay with his animals. I know he’s being compassionate because he doesn’t have to do it, but he sees my swollen belly, feet and legs, and he knows I could drop this baby at any time. Neither he nor his wife can live with that.
We make our way to a cleft in the rock where they keep their cow, sheep and donkey. I am so tired that I don’t even care how badly it smells, but the wife comes and mucks out the stalls laying down fresh hay. I try to help, but let’s face it, I can’t get up on my own once I’m down. I rest as much as I can, and I sleep as well as one can when there are animals around you.
Joseph makes his way around town finding out where he has to go to register and what is required. He doesn’t wander away often or too far. He also knows at any moment Jesus could come, and he asks the manager’s wife to check on me when she can.
The time came, and Joseph was there, right by my side the whole time, holding my hand, stroking my hair as the manager’s wife helped me deliver the Son of God. He cries. I cry, and we clean the baby up. He’s wrapped tightly in the swaddling clothes that are prepared for him, and he’s put on my chest. His sweet puffy eyes and pink skin. I stroke his face, and Joseph holds us both. I kiss Jesus on the forehead and begin to nurse. This is a moment I will treasure – the three of us with the animals in the cleft of the rock.
Night falls, and I know I can’t hold him all night. I’ve held him all day. I didn’t know what the Son of God’s face would look like as a tiny baby, so I’ve studied his features while I held him in my arms. His eye brows, his nose, his lips, his ears, his hair, his eyes. This is the face of God’s Son. I’m holding God’s Son, and while I know I need to put him down, I just hold on for one moment longer before Joseph takes him and lays him in the manger Joseph prepared with fresh hay and blankets. I've protected him for nine months inside my womb, but now He's here, and I'm a little overwhelmed that now I protect Him with the fiercest mother's love I've ever known.
Even though Jesus was placed in the manger, the animal’s trough for food, none of them bothered him. There was a curious lamb, but they never got close. When it was their feeding time, we removed Jesus and his blankets so they could feed. I knew this arrangement was not permanent. I knew at some point in time we would be living somewhere else, but in the meantime, my baby would share his bed with the animals. It was the best we could do, and I wonder what kind of place is this for the future king.
It is well past meal time when we hear a commotion outside our makeshift home. Joseph goes to check it out and meets some shepherds who are heading in our direction. They keep looking up into the night sky. They are so excited and animated and loud. They are talking over each other in their excitement. One runs ahead of another as they jostle to get to Joseph. They ask Joseph if this is where the Christ child is. Surprised, Joseph tells them “yes.” The shepherds come in as Joseph stands there stooped by what’s going on. That’s when I saw Joseph look into the sky. He stared for a moment, looked at me, and grinned.
To be honest, I know shepherds are typically smelly people, but I couldn’t smell them over the other smells in our little place. They were just so excited. We hadn’t told anyone about Jesus being born. I doubt the manager’s wife went and told them, plus we didn’t tell her that I had just given birth to God’s Son. That’s when they told us about the angel and the singing angels. They told us how the sky exploded with a bright light and the sound of angels singing, announcing the birth of the Messiah. They said people had to hear it from miles around. They were compelled to come. They were drawn to find him. They had nothing to offer the Savior. Their clothes were soiled, and they smelled from living with the sheep. They had nothing of value to offer, but what they gave was the purest form of worship and adoration. It was so beautiful. I again cried.
I don’t remember how long they stayed, but when they left, Joseph walked me outside to see the star beaming proudly above our humble beginning, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in the night sky.
Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day as is custom and outlined under the Law, and we would have to wait a little longer to complete the Redemption of the first born and Purification Offering and Ceremony. We travel to the temple in Jerusalem for that. The trip wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Jesus travels well. We consecrate Jesus and make a sacrificial offering in his place. We also complete my Purification Offering with two turtledoves. As we are in the temple, a man named Simeon approaches us. He took Jesus from my arms. Normally, I’d be a bit taken aback, but when he starts speaking, I know it’s of the Lord. Simeon says,
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Simeon said, then he blessed Joseph and I. Looking me in the face, he says, This child is destined to cause the failing and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
That is a lot to process. I do my best to remember everything he’s said when a woman comes over. I discover her name is Anna. She is very old, but I see a light in her eyes. Her eyebrows raise as do the corners of her mouth. She started thanking God and bringing strangers over saying they needed redemption. This is the baby that was born to redeem them. She was filled with such joy. Joseph and I were amazed by the people who knew about Jesus already when we hadn’t said a word.
That night as I nursed this sweet baby, I thought about what Simeon had said. My baby is salvation, and a light for Gentiles. I understand that Jesus has come to reclaim the throne of David, but what do Gentiles have to do with anything? I wonder who will fall and who will rise because of my son. I’m concerned that people will speak against him and my mother's instinct already kicks up a notch. I can’t help but wonder what he meant by, a sword will pierce your own soul too. I’m not concerned for me, but rather, what does this mean for Jesus? Protecting the Savior. That’s my job. I’m his mom. He's a baby. The task seems too daunting and overwhelming, and he’s not even two months old yet.