On this last Sunday of Advent, we invite you to take a journey with storyteller Sherri Gragg as she leads us in a meditation of what Christ’s birth might have been like. This story is likely not the version you are accustomed to, but based on historical and cultural evidence, this very well may have been closer to Mary’s experience. Regardless of the details, we pray that your heart will be led to celebration and worship of our humble, miraculous Savior!
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)
Mary couldn’t sit still.
With great effort she rose from the low stool in the courtyard where she and the other women were preparing the evening meal. She placed one hand on her lower back and began to pace back and forth. She felt restless, uneasy.
The older women watched her for a moment before casting knowing looks to each other. Mary’s baby was ready to make His entrance.
As the family sat in a circle on the floor, tearing off pieces of pita bread and scooping up couscous and yogurt from the large communal bowl, Mary sat looking at the piece of bread in her hand.
She knew she should be ravenous, but somehow she couldn’t eat. She reached up to wipe a trickle of sweat from her temple. The packed room was stifling despite the fact that the sun had set long ago.
A moment later Mary gasped as the dull ache in her lower abdomen suddenly intensified. One of Joseph’s aunts, seated next to her, frowned, reached out to place a hand on her stomach, and found the muscles clenched tight. “It’s time,” she said.
Joseph leapt to his feet, his face white with alarm. His uncle chuckled, patted him on the shoulder, and sent him off to get the town midwife. As two of the women helped Mary to her feet, the matriarch of the family began barking orders to the rest of the clan. Normally Mary would have been offered the privacy and comfort of the kataluma, the guest room, but since the house was full of guests and her labor could possibly stretch into the early hours of the morning, they would need to improvise.
Quickly, the animals were evicted from the stables beneath the main living area. The children were tasked with sweeping the area clean and placing fresh straw on the floor. By the time the midwife arrived, Mary was leaning against the cool stone wall of the stables as she waited for the next contraction to pass.
The jovial older woman shuffled into the stables, birthing stool hooked over her arm. Joseph peeked anxiously through the doorway at his wife for a moment before one of the women shooed him away to wait upstairs.
The moment his foot landed on the first step leading to the main living room, Mary cried out in pain. Joseph froze. Beside him, his uncle laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.“Come, Joseph,” he said. “She is in good hands.”
Hours later, in the dark early hours of the morning, Mary gasped for air and cried out in pain from the birthing stool, where she leaned back into the supportive arms of Joseph’s aunt. The midwife crouched low in front of her, murmuring encouragement.
“It is time to push, my daughter,” she said. “Be strong now.”
The next contraction tore through Mary’s body only seconds after the last one subsided. Then, with a cry of agony, she bore down with all of her remaining strength.
The pain faded as her baby’s first cry pierced the night.
“You have a son!” the midwife announced. Upstairs, Joseph’s ecstatic shout was joined by the joyful celebration of his uncles and cousins.
In the stables below, the midwife tenderly placed the crying baby on His young mother’s chest. Tears flowed down Mary’s face as she bent to kiss her son’s forehead for the first time.
Joseph peeked around the corner of the stables. His aunt turned to wave him into the room. “Come,” she said. “Come meet your son.”Joseph rushed to Mary’s side and knelt down to wrap an arm around her. Gently he placed a calloused hand on the baby’s head as he blinked back tears of joy.
“Have you chosen a name?” his aunt asked.
“Yeshua,” Mary said as she gazed tenderly into the eyes of her son, now quiet and alert. “Yeshua…”
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus [Yeshua], because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
As written by Sherri Gragg in Advent: The Story of Christmas. Connect with Sherri on Instagram and her website.
Advent: The Story of Christmas traces God’s ribbon of redemption – from Eden to Jerusalem – through thirty-one biblical stories. Sherri Gragg’s unique storytelling, infused with cultural accuracy and color, has been described as “Bible stories for adults.”
Her narrative style offers a fresh perspective on the lives of God’s people, both ancient and modern. Advent: The Story of Christmas will enrich personal devotional time during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Today marks the fourth Sunday in the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. We’re so pleased to have spent these weeks sharing excerpts from this beautiful book, learning more about Jesus, and counting down to Christmas, together.Leave a Comment
Thank you for such a beautiful story of love. As a mother, yes it brings memories and thoughts of a love indescribable that grows each moment.
So beautifully told. It moved me to tears.
Janet W says
Beth Williams says
We don’t often think about the fact that Joseph went to Bethlehem because of the census. Naturally the whole family would have been there. Adds another dimension to the story. My pastor talked this morning about the 80 mile trek they had to make. Imagine nine months pregnant & having to ride a donkey or walk that far. Thanks for a great devotion.