Real, Not Normal

She couldn’t sleep. Her brain revisited the mental checklist of things to pack. Her swollen abdomen got in the way as she rolled over – again – searching for that non-existent comfortable position. Every once in a while she could forget the discomfort and thought about him. What would he look like? What would he be like? And she dreamed of cradling him in her arms, then she groaned as he kicked her from within, he too trying to find a comfortable position. Her back ached. Her swollen feet throbbed. She got a charley horse in her left calf muscle. What to pack? Roll over – again. She couldn’t sleep.

That is possibly the only similarity she had with Mary.

She didn’t have to fit everything into a saddle bag. She sat on fluffed up pillows on her five minute drive (in a minivan, not on a donkey) to the hospital. (Unlike the surprise of no room at the inn, there was plenty of room there.) She didn’t wince as a donkey lumbered over the dirt roads. Her drive was paved and smooth. (Save the large bump when you cross over Lancaster Avenue with ample ditches on either side for water runoff. A man surely designed that stretch of road with no regard for women in labor.) And being her third time, she had a bit of an idea of what she wanted to pack, although her playlist changed from day to day and she forgot her slippers from home and the tennis ball used for back pain.

And oh yeah, she knew what the father looked like. And even though he was a bit terrified, this wasn’t his first time either, and he wasn’t being asked to raise a child that wasn’t his fault. Nope. This was definitely of his own doing.

She had a bed which conveniently dropped off at the end and people who cleaned up the mess. She had medication available at her disposal. She had a toilet to flush. She had a help button to push. She had nurses who were willing to take the baby for a few hours so she could sleep.

For me, the birthday of my son was wonderful, breathtaking, allbeit exhausting, and entirely…normal (to a mother from the 21st century).

For Mary the mother of Jesus? Her experience was not so normal.

I have a picture from a few Christmases ago. My brother sits on the sofa near a woman, the wife of another brother, with my daughter wedged in the middle. A caption reads “(Not a real family)”.

If someone had taken a snapshot of Mary and Joseph and Jesus, perhaps it could have been captioned “(Not a real family)”. Or maybe that’s just what everyone was thinking as they walked down the street. After all, Mary had never actually slept with her husband Joseph. She had never actually seen the face of the baby’s Father. Joseph pretty much adopted this baby that his wife was bearing even though she was apparently a virgin. (I don’t exactly envision Joseph sitting on the front stoop, smoking a cigar with his buddies who are smacking him on the back with congratulatory remarks, like, “Atta boy, Joe!” Or “Way to go, Buddy!” Come to think of it, the baby himself had actually been sent away from heaven by his Father.

Not exactly the warm fuzzy picture you want to wish for anyone on his birthday, or wish for the parents as they experience the birth of their first son.

But that is exactly what makes this birthday so absolutely wonderful and breathtaking. We wouldn’t want this to be a “normal” birth story, or a “normal” family.

Immanuel – “God with us” – was not a “normal” man. Who else was born with the purpose to save His people from their sin? To shine a Light into the dark world? To help those of us who are single moms, lonely dads, adopted children, children who are waiting to be adopted, hurting spouses, couples who yearn for a child, people who yearn for a spouse, widows, widowers, people who have had lots of lovers but have never known love? To redeem those of us with unmanageable mortgages, addictions, angry children, no jobs, no joy? (Maybe God had some insight as to what a “normal” would look like in 2015. After all, He sympathizes with us in our weakness, yes? I think there is good reason He was not born to a well established middle class family.)

God was born. And because of it, a “Real Family” was created. A family in which He is the brother of all who believe that “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” And if you know Him as your Brother, you know His Father as your Father.

A “Real Family” these days is not necessarily a “normal” family. I am grateful Mary couldn’t sleep that night. And I am grateful there was nothing normal about the birth of her son.

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