I watched as my 9-year-old stepson raised his hand during a recent Sunday morning children’s sermon. “When you said that Jesus came to us as a baby,” he told the children’s ministry coordinator, “it makes me think about the baby in my stepmom’s belly.” Tears filled my eyes and I smiled, placing a hand on my very prominent belly, where his sister was making her presence known with unmistakable movements. As we approached Christmas this year, I enjoyed Jackson’s questions and observations as he made connections between my pregnancy and Mary’s.
“You think Jesus kicked Mary all the time, too?”
“What did Mary do when she got scared something was wrong with baby Jesus inside her? She couldn’t go to the doctor like you do. And it would be even worse for something bad to happen because it was JESUS!”
“I guess Mary had to go to the bathroom all the time like you. Was it an outhouse back then?”
My own wonderings have been similar, and different. As my ankles swelled and joints ached after just a few hours in the car, I had new sympathy for a very pregnant Mary making the trip to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey. I wondered if she too had vivid nightmares about losing the baby, or seeing him suffer a horrific accident as a child, or watching him grow up to bitterly resent all the mistakes she would make as a mother. I wondered if she could sometimes not hold back a gasp or a laugh when the baby’s movements caused powerful and alien sensations inside her. I guessed that she also prayed many prayers of joyful gratitude for the miracle taking place in her womb, and maybe more than a few desperate pleas for all to be well when either intuition or paranoia told her something was not right in there. I somewhat envied her foreknowledge via angelic proclamation and prophecy as I tried to get a sense of my daughter’s personality based on movement patterns and ultrasounds. I wondered about the songs she sang to Jesus as she stroked her belly, the nicknames she gave him, and how he responded. I imagined the look of wonder and joy on Joseph’s face the first time he felt the baby kick from the outside must have been much like my husband’s expression.
For so many years, through loneliness and infertility and loss, I was too afraid to think too deeply about a pregnant Mary and a Jesus in utero. But now that I’m here, in the last few weeks of my own pregnancy, I find it hard to think about much else. The myriad indignities and dangers of pregnancy give me a new appreciation of the Incarnation. At times, I have trembled at the realization of just how tiny and fragile my unborn child is, and somehow God chose to become terrifyingly tiny and fragile, dependent on the body of a mother who, like me, had never done this before and likely felt overwhelmingly unqualified. Usually when these thoughts come, I can find nothing more profound to say than, “Wow.” A lot of Christmas carols say it better.
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see…“
“King of kings yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood, Lord of lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood...”
“A babe on the breast of a maiden he lies, yet sits with the Father on high in the skies…”
Like Mary, I have so many things to ponder in my heart this season, and much for which to rejoice. I hope you do, too. Merry Christmas, everyone!