Luke 2:6-7 (the message)
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
This morning as I read about the birth of Jesus, I briefly thought about how Creator planned such humble beginnings for Himself as Savior. A barn with barn animals. A manger. Dirt, hay and all of the other fragrant elements found there. But then another thought captured my attention. One I can’t say I ‘ve spent much time thinking about in the past.
Mary. Mary giving birth in a barn. Her God-Son in a manger. Shepherds showing up full of excitement because a chorus of angels sang Hallelujah in the sky. No warm bath or nurses to bring comfort and ice-chips. No fluffy pillow and cozy blankets for a much-needed nap. No, her body opened wide to release the Son of God in the most humble of places and in the most humble circumstances one can imagine.
Maybe I’ve taken it for granted all of my life. Manger scenes, children’s plays and singing “Away in a Manger.” Sipping apple cider and the warm, fuzzy feelings of Christmas all around. Those are wonderful, cherished aspects of Christmas. But this morning I just had to stop for a minute and wonder about her. I mean, if God chooses you as the mother of Messiah I can’t blame you for expecting some favor, some super-natural provision (like a room in the inn!). I’m thinking if it were me, I would have been distraught. As in, God you have abandoned me…where are You when I need You…I didn’t ask for this…how could you abandon me to give birth for the first time in a barn? I’m saying I would have complained. And in that I realize God wouldn’t have chosen me.
As I busied myself with school lunches and breakfast my heart asked how could she be this way? How could Mary travel to Bethlehem for the census on a donkey while also pregnant? How did she hold her breath with hope only to hear “no room” with every stop Joseph made? All the while experiencing the pains of labor? How could she nestle into the straw and hay and dirt to give birth and not grow bitter in the most tender and strained moments of her life?
She must have been humble. Really humble. A kind of humble I don’t understand.
Then my heart asked how again. How, God, could she be so humble? I mean she was a human woman. She had a sin nature like the rest of us. How could she live with such a pure humility in her heart?
For a little while my heart hung on this question. Mainly because I would like to be humble and pure of heart but I’m not. Not really. My own hopes, desires and agenda get mixed up and into everything. I really couldn’t understand how it would be possible to be like Mary. Somewhere between waffles and Nutella a soft thought blew across my heart. I’m not suggesting it’s the answer to the question, but maybe it’s a start.
Mary must have given up her rights. She must have given up the greats: “I” and “My.” I need…I want…I deserve. My plans…My goals…My way.
I struggle with giving up the “I” and the “My.” I give it up then I snatch it back. But deep inside I truly believe it all comes down to a five-letter word. One Mary must have had etched irrevocably across her soul.
See, when we give up the greats, it’s not because we have no value or our needs or hopes mean nothing. It must become about trusting that God really does love us so much that we are safe to hand over the “I” and “My” and let Him have His way. Trust that He considers our surrender an offering and when we give Him what we have, God makes beauty of ashes.
A barn-birth seems like ashes to me. Yet, only in a young woman so humble of heart could God bring about His own humble beginnings. His Glory out of the ash, the dirt, the stink. Only a woman who truly saw herself beneath “rights” would God choose to raise His Son. Only a seasoned older woman, holding deep within her heart memories of Yahweh gazing up at her from a manger, could worship the God-Man she grew. Only an emptied woman could embrace His broken, bloodied body coming down from a cross and consent to misunderstood grief. Only a woman so unconcerned with self could live through the grief, hold on to her trust, and live to see her son, the Son, glorified in resurrection. And only a humble heart would relish being counted as just one of the many in the Upper Room weeks later…hearing the howling of His Spirit as He rushed to fill them. Another birth. The Church.
I don’t worship Mary. I don’t pray to her and mostly don’t think much about her outside of Christmas. But this morning I can only admire and wonder at the heart of God’s earthly mother. I can only wonder at how she grew into the woman she was…Beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out the Bible says. And I wonder how can I be more like her? More like the Savior she wrapped and placed in a manger? So willing to give up the greatness of diety for the greatness of love.
How do I completely forsake the greats, the I and Me, for His Greatness? I want to live to see the ashes of my way and my will give birth to the beauty only Savior can create.