After hearing all of the scriptural readings up to today, I have come to this conclusion (and perhaps one you’ve already thought about, too):
Mary was one tough chick.
No, really. I have been pregnant, and let me tell you, it was not pretty. I have friends who did the whole “glowing” thing while they were pregnant, and who rhapsodized about how much they loved everything about the process. I was not one of those pregnant women. I was a grumpy pregnant woman. I did not glow. I did not rhapsodize. I was roughly the size of Idaho with hemorrhoids that would make even the most macho man weep in pain and irritation. I was large, unwieldy, sweaty, and exhausted. I was also a bit of a whiner (startling, I know). Yet, I had a “smooth sailing” go of things, while it seems that Mary’s road was bumpy, both figuratively, and literally.
Every time I read the Christmas Story in Luke, I am astonished by Mary’s raw strength and dogged perseverance. She is not flustered by a visit from a fiery angel. She is not shaken by the angel’s news about her coming pregnancy. She is not cowed by the blatant stares of others as she walks down the street, or by the look of deep disappointment in her parents’ eyes. The worst was Joseph’s incredulity, then utter silence; but even that did not deter her from accepting her responsibility.
What I admire most about Mary, however, is her sheer physical strength. At nine months within her pregnancy, she walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is around 96 miles according to Google. That’s nearly 100 miles. She rode a donkey some of that time, more than likely, but she probably walked some, too. Once she got to Bethlehem, the situation only got worse. Her labor pains started, but there was no Super 8 in sight, no hospital with doctors or nurses ready to deliver her baby in a clean, germ-free room.
Having a baby is not only excruciating; it is messy. There is a lot of pain, a lot of screaming, and a lot of blood. The Bible doesn’t talk about the graphic part of delivering a baby, but giving birth, even when it is a “normal delivery,” requires every ounce of resilience one can summon up. I think most women—including me—would have broken under the hardships Mary had to endure. Not Mary, and God knew she wouldn’t. He knew she was tough.
When I see ancient paintings of Mary, her face often looks serene, calm, and infinitely nonplussed. In my imagination, Mary does not look like a passionless beauty with perfect hair. She is wiry, scrappy, and her eyes sparkle and challenge you. She squares her shoulders and says, “Alright. Bring it on. I’ve got this one.”
Be grateful this day, B-Flat Christian, that Mary was one tough chick, and celebrate the struggles she was willing to endure to give—even you– The Light of the World.