While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
(Luke 2:6–7, NIV)
The nativity sets that we see in homes, offices, and even on lawns during this season capture a still frame, a moment in time, but offer little to awaken our senses. I often read this passage in Luke and fail to linger in the process that brought Mary to the time when she gave birth to Jesus. We must call on our senses of taste, touch, and hearing to fully appreciate the process.
“The time came”: Those words are filled with many sights and sounds—Mary’s water breaking and her shrieks from labor pains as she tried to balance herself and stay upright, Joseph’s heart racing as he cared for his family, and finally a sigh of relief from the couple as a spot was chosen for the birth.
“She gave birth”: Mothers pause at these words, remembering the hours prior to their baby’s birth. Holding a baby is the prize for a mother’s long season of waiting and the pain of childbirth.
“Her firstborn”: Our eyes focus on Mary’s eyes as we imagine she gazed deeply into the eyes of Jesus, her firstborn. This young woman’s identity was forever changed when she became “mama.”
“She wrapped him”: Mary loved with action. Carefully she warmed and cleaned her baby. Don’t lose the humanity of Christ’s umbilical cord being cut and His first cries as oxygen entered and left His lungs. Don’t overlook the moment when Mary would have felt the beating heart of the Son of God.
What I sometimes miss when I read the Nativity story is that this young couple did not know the story the way I do. When I read the Nativity story with Calvary in mind, with Christ’s return in mind, I can miss the humanity of the story. I miss the messiness that is childbirth, the anxiety of being a new parent, the soft touch of an infant’s skin. But this mess reminds me that Christ, the Son of God, humbled Himself and became fully man, while still being fully God. He entered the mess because He loves us more than comfort. This Christmas, remember that Jesus came right into the midst of our mess when He came as an infant, and He remains with us in our mess because He is a God who comes near.