I birthed baby Jesus three times. But before you move on to the next Christmas Eve post citing heresy, please bear with me. I have three boys who were each invited in turn to portray the infant Jesus in church Christmas pageants in two different congregations.
I have a distinct memory of being asked the first time. I was terrified as a first time mother at the thought of handing over my weeks old baby to the teenage girl who was playing the part of Mary. What if he was fussy? Hungry? Just wanted his Mom or Dad? What if she had never held a newborn before? Or, more honestly, what if I simply wasn’t willing to let someone else hold him?
I was at the very beginning of figuring out who this little baby was and how to respond to his cries. I had no intention of giving him to someone else for an hour. But I did, swallowing down my anxieties about the whole thing. And it wasn’t long before I figured out why.
As the young woman clothed in blue began to slowly walk down the candle-illumined aisle, my heart welled up and tears fell down my cheeks. There was my boy snuggled up in white muslin blankets, bright-eyed and cooing at the beauty of the lights against the darkened room. I was transformed in that moment.
Suddenly the fear was gone, and a renewed sense of the importance of Jesus’ arrival as a tiny infant filled me. The world needed an infant to see the love of God so mystically expressed in bright big eyes, round cheeks and snuggles. My sweet baby boy ended up quietly asleep in the arms of his caregiver for the rest of the pageant.
And the second and third times I handed my baby boys to the teen portraying Mary, the fear was gone, but the transformative tears remained.
Bearing babies into the world is hard work, whether they come by fostering, adoption, marriage, or otherwise. Bearing Jesus into the world is sometimes painstaking work.
It may require relinquishing the things that we most fear. It may ask of us things that we never thought possible. It may require working to manage the demands of ministry and the deep desire to care for one’s spouse, child, pet, or self.
It may sometimes require more energy or investment than we think we can muster. It may feel futile, even when God is most at work. It may feel like a risky adventure in uncharted waters. But in our persistence and our willingness to face the fears that come, we are transformed.
Yet we have the opportunity to discover that each and every time we bear Jesus into the world once more, he is also born anew in us.
Perhaps Meister Eckhart says it best:
“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
Go forth, and may Jesus be born in you and in the world once more this Christmas.
Jeanell Cox is a mother of three boys and a Board Certified Chaplain. She is currently a CPE Supervisory Education Student at Duke Hospital in Durham, NC.