In the year when time turned the world over, God turned Mary’s life upside down. Of course these events are related. The boy in her belly would change the direction of the world. Time would turn around him.
Her life would turn around him. Each kick, each punch, each hiccup, drummed the heartbeat of redemption for us. In her, the fullness of love was growing. In her, God was being born. In her, our healing and hope were being knit together in the Christ child.
But of course each kick, each punch, each hiccup, each expanding inch of her belly drummed anxiety in her. She wondered, Was it real, or just some dream? Would Joseph stick around and raise a son that was not quite his own? Would the baby make it? What would become of this baby? And, when would the baby come?
As babies do, he came in his own time, right on time. But he came at the worst time for Mary. Unprepared and on the road, she would deliver the deliverer in the little town of Bethlehem. After all, God is content with God’s own timing, whether we are ready or not. After all, God is content to come, even when there is no room for him. He makes a space, small but powerful.
In the moment, Mary thought the labor would never end as each contraction pushed her closer to her baby. But as she passed the story on, the painful details wash away. What remained was the touch of Joseph’s strong hands holding hers. The care of those who helped her labor. The faint recollection that it was tough and long but good because all the pain disappeared the moment the baby was put on her belly. Tears of joy watered her face as Joseph helped cut the cord. It was messy and yet a vision so holy and so pure and so true. All she had to do was hold him in her arms and feed him so he could sleep.
There was no way she put him in the manger.
No, she watched as the midwife swaddled his body — over, up, down and around. She’d have to learn how to do that so she could comfort him to sleep. That would come in time. And someday his body would be shrouded the same way for burial. But for now, this night, she wasn’t thinking about that, instead she sat there and stroked his hair and pondered his ear, how it created caverns that circled out from his eardrum.
The divine fingers wrapped around her thumb as he worked milk into his little body. She felt his warm breath on her breast as he ate. He used to breathe through her body, but now he could breathe on his own. It wouldn’t be his last act of independence.
And then she noticed his long eyelashes, how they rested on his cheeks while he slept. She sings him a lullaby, one about a star twinkling up above the world so high, a song to match the diamond sky in Bethlehem. She rocked him back and forth. She was rocking her baby, yes, but she was also holding God, born of our flesh, born of our body, born to save us.