Mother Mary All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Here, in my eighth month of pregnancy, I imagine Mary. She is tired. So, so tired. And this baby within her – this Promised One – has caused her back to ache in ways that she never knew it could. She lies awake at night, restless, uncomfortable, imagining all that is to come. And she finds herself tearing up at least once a day…overtired, overwhelmed, the accusations of “lunatic!” and “whore” still echoing in her head; those grating whispers have followed her all this way. So far from home.

She wants to curse this journey, its timing; her sciatic nerve has been pinching for weeks, and with each step the donkey takes, her pelvic bones groan and ache. Joseph looks back at her; she winces another smile, biting back even more tears. They seem to stop every five minutes for her to go to the bathroom.

Finally, Bethlehem. Joseph looks away as he tells her that there are no rooms available, his voice cracking when he tells her about the barn. But she is relieved. Anything to be off that donkey. As she stretches and starts to unpack: the first contraction. She gasps a little and thinks – so that’s what it feels like.

Minutes later, another. And another. And soon, the painful rhythm is set. She whimpers her way through them; they walk, rock, and breath, and then it passes. The stench of beast and waste around her are nauseating. She cries now and then – wondering how she came to be so far from her mom, her sisters, at such a time as this. But this is just the beginning.

All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

I used to wonder at these words of Jesus. He is speaking, privately, to his closest friends, who want to know the signs of his kingly return. They are eager for it – they know that this man is the Solution, the Remedy, and so they ask. Jesus responds, and his answer is filled with all of life’s greatest fears: Wars. Rumors of Wars. Famine. Earthquakes.

He is speaking the language of burnt out and broken landscapes. Of wearied people, refugees, fleeing with terrified children.  Of starvation and pain and death. And yet, Jesus says: This is but the beginning.

The sin and suffering which has already marred so much of humanity and history will only increase. His words promise a crescendo to the curse of a fallen world. And for much of my life, I held these words in dread and despair.

But as I write tonight, anticipating the birth of my second child, and I remember the birth of my first…the whole of it…the beginning of the birth pains, the intensity of pushing, and the eventual birth of my son into my arms, I remember a night of agony turned into incredible joy. And I realize that these words of Jesus are the furthest thing from a curse. They are instead a promise of hope. Of deliverance.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Like earthquake tremors, her labor increases. Soon, she is breathless. Her eyes are clenched; Joseph’s are wide. The pressure is unbearable and she cries out, breaking the silence of the night. She tells him over and over I cannot do this! And yet another one comes. Soon she is on her knees in the straw, pushing, and the pain is tremendous.

And then, at once. It is over. The pressure releases and she feels him – Him! – come out. Joseph is sobbing, and she is shaking, and he is here. She shivers and shakes and opens her eyes as the baby is laid on her chest. And she is delivered.

He is here. HE is here. God with us. Immanuel. And in Him, in his flailing arms and rooting cries, in Him all of the fullness of the promise of deliverance comes to life. He is the One who will destroy even the memory of war and famine and earthquakes. Who will wipe every tear from our eyes. The One who will defeat sin and death and establish a peace secure and lasting.

Merry Christmas. We are delivered.


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5 thoughts on “Deliverance

  1. Great post. Just had my 3rd 6 wks ago and I have thought a lot about what Mary might have been going through during her pregnancy.. Truly amazing. God bless you and your family :)

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