My first pregnancy was hard. I was nauseated and vomiting almost the entire time. I prayed that if God ever wanted me to go through this again, at least my delivery would have to be easy. And it was! Delivering my daughter was such a beautiful and peaceful experience — thanks to the epidural and the angel of a nurse I had coaching me through the process.
As the time got closer to delivery, I was really nervous. I was told that they were going to take the baby from the womb and place her immediately onto my chest. It may seem silly, but I faint at the sight of blood, and I am sort of a germaphobe. So the idea of having this baby covered in all sorts of fluids flung onto my chest was not how I had imagined this precious moment. I wanted it to be perfect, like in the movies where the babies are cleaned off and photo ready. Would my own baby gross me out so much that I would ruin this magical moment? I was thinking of all of this as I pushed my little girl out. They placed her on my chest, blood and all, but I didn’t even notice. We made eye contact. She reached her little arm up and placed her hand on my neck as if she was giving me a hug. I began to cry; she was already crying! It was magical and perfect.
Even though she was covered in a lot of mess, she was perfect. She was mine to hold. The one for whom I had been waiting nine long months and loved more than I knew I could love.
I always wondered about Mary, how she must have felt the moment she first held Jesus. I wonder if she was looking at all the cows and thinking, this is not the way I imagined this moment. But she was the one chosen to hold Him. She was the one who would birth the Perfect One who came to make His home among the messy and broken.
As Mary held that little baby covered in blood and all, knowing He is the Son of God, she must have cried so many tears of joy. He was the one that they had waited for, the Messiah. The angels sang and the shepherds worshipped. It was indeed the perfect moment.
In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord as required by the Law of Moses. There they met a man named Simeon who confirmed that this child was indeed the one through whom the world would see God.
Maybe Mary needed that reminder — after all, Jesus was still a human baby who probably kept her up all night and needed his cloth diaper changed often. Teenage Mary was probably breathing a sigh of relief as she was reminded that her work of mothering is hard but it is holy.
Then Simeon looks at Mary and says “…a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35). As he reminded her of Jesus’ purpose, he reminded Mary it won’t be easy for her; in fact, it will hurt her to the core.
So, the million-dollar question, Mary, did you know? Yes, she did. God loved her enough to reveal that her son didn’t come to stay in the world, but to save the world.
Unlike that starry night, with angels singing and cattle mooing, the day Simeon’s prophecy came true was dreary and somber. On the hill of Calvary, Mary held her son, covered in blood, pressed up against her chest. Indeed her soul was pierced. She would cry, but heaven would be silent. She had waited along with all her people for the Messiah that Isaiah had prophesied over 700 years before. And as much as it hurt, Mary knew indeed He was the perfect lamb who would take away the sin of the world.
It is easy to get caught up in all of our Christmas traditions and creating magical moments for our family, that we forget that Jesus was actually born to die. Christmas is more than a birthday celebration; it is the crux of the Gospel message: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Christmas is remembering that God reached down to dirt to create man, but man rejected Him. Then God came down in flesh into a cradle in the dirt to restore man back to Himself. He didn’t just lie in a crib, He wore a crown of thorns and died a criminal’s death. Christmas was Love Himself reaching out for you and me and that’s what makes it a moment of celebration. So even as you remember the manger, remember the cross.