He Was Born
by Rich Maffeo
By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us" (Matthew 1:23).
I remember our excitement when my wife, Nancy, and I learned she was pregnant with our first child. It happened more than thirty years ago, but the memories remain vivid. We waited with growing anticipation during the nine months as Nancy's abdomen slowly expanded. We watched in awe as her belly rippled when Keren stretched in the womb. We busied ourselves with planning and shopping and decorating long before we brought our baby home.
Our daughter was born March 12, 1977, in a warm and hygienic hospital delivery room. The obstetrician handed Keren to a nurse, who wiped her clean with a soft towel, wrapped her in a blanket, and laid her in a warm bassinet. The pediatrician examined our daughter and, a few minutes later, the nurse carried her to Nancy's arms.
What loving parent doesn't hope their children will enter the world snuggled in a warm blanket, laid in a comfortable bed, and watched over by an adoring family? What mom or dad doesn't long to wrap their children in soft clothing and give them colorful toys?
If anyone might have expected that kind of experience, Mary and Joseph probably did. After all, the Virgin carried the Son of God within her womb, conceived through the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Babies just don't get any more special.
But when His parents arrived in Bethlehem, the town was already swollen with strangers. Joseph and Mary, tired and hungry from their journey, longed for a place to bathe and a bed to let their weariness give way to refreshing sleep. Instead, Joseph searched in vain for a clean and comfortable place for his wife to lie down. They settled for the night with cattle and to the smell of manure and rotting straw.
To make an uncomfortable situation worse, Mary went into labor.
Why did God bring His son into the world in a barn instead of a manicured palace? Why did He permit His Son to be born far from family and friends who could nurture the Infant and help the new mother care for Him?
I don't know. That's not the way I'd have done it. But were I to guess, I'd say it happened that way so God could demonstrate from the very beginning of His work for our salvation that "Emmanuel" really does mean God is with us - in our poverty, complete with rotting straw, manure and flies.
The Creed reminds us Jesus was born as most of humanity is born: in humble surroundings with the most meager of necessities. Christ knows the fullness of our harshest experiences because He lived through them - from a feeding trough to a splintered cross, with the Via Dolorosa - the Way of Suffering - between the two.
Jesus' birth - like His life - is God's assurance that He is intimately connected to our humanness. He understands our loneliness, our sorrow, our confusion. And through it all, He remains only a prayer away from drawing us to Himself, wrapping us in His arms and wiping us clean with His blood.
Prayer: Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, when I am rushed and confused, compose and quiet me. Make my heart like a comforted child, not looking at my circumstances, but always to You, my shelter, my anchor, my peace. Amen.
Next time: He Was Born
These meditations are compiled in Richard Maffeo's book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The book is available through bookstores and his website
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