She moves with that awkward walk unique to those carrying a child, a hand on her slightly arched back. Far from home with only her betrothed for company, she settles herself on the straw with a soft moan, leaning back against the cold wall of the cave. Her time is near, so very near, and she can feel Life inside of her stirring, moving, ready for its entrance into the world.
She’s a young girl from an agrarian society, in a time and a place without hospitals, without anesthetics, without doctors, where it is the women who gather around expectant mothers and help them give birth to their children Beyond that, she is a devout Jew. She knows of Eve, of the curse, and so she knows what lies in her future. She knows the pain, the agony, the danger involved in labor, in delivery, and now she is here, in a strange place, away from the women she’s known her entire life, the women who would otherwise be there to attend her.
Yet at the same time, she’s waited for this moment for nine months. Her people have waited for centuries. She knows the child she carries will live, that He will be the Son of the Most High, that His reign will never end. She knows His name will be Jesus. She knows that the pain of childbirth will bring forth the promised messiah.
I wonder how Mary, Mother of God, balanced the fear and the hope as she and Joseph prepared their beds that evening. Was she eager, expectant, ready? Did the anticipation of holding her Son and the desire to be free of the discomfort of those last months of pregnancy outweigh the anxiety caused by the pain of giving birth, the loneliness of being far from home?
Two thousand years later, we wait still, wait for the return of the King, for Him to make all things new.
The earth spins toward dark, the days ever shorter, the night ever longer, and the cold presses in. Evil looms there, in the gloom of the world around us, there in our own hearts, and we long for the light. We long for the end of sorrow, of pain, of suffering. We long for Him to come.
Yet agony and danger lie between us and the triumphant return. Famine and disease, death and ruin, things foretold thousands of years ago that we cannot quite comprehend. We long for Him to come, but His coming will not be easy. With it will come upheaval and violence, events that will change the course of history.
His coming will not be easy. But then, neither was His first advent. It, too, brought upheaval and violence. It, too, changed the course of history.
That last month of pregnancy can be an eternity, and I’ve often wondered if this serves a purpose. The lumbering gait and swollen everything, the aching joints, the insomnia, the discomfort and pain – perhaps they all work together to bring the mother-to-be to a place of readiness. Perhaps the relative ease of the second trimester slides into the agony of the third for just this reason: to make the woman long for birth, for release, even if it means enduring the intensity of labor.
The entire world is pregnant in a way, pregnant with hope, with promise, with possibility. Like Mary, the world groans, waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah.
The time is near, so very near, and these last days are an eternity, but perhaps this serves a purpose. Perhaps it all works together to bring us to a place of readiness, to make us long for the coming of the King, for release, even if it means enduring the intensity of the end times.
She crouches on the dirt and the straw, her hair drenched with sweat. Her young fiancé hovers at her side. She clutches his hand, squeezing hard through the worst of the contractions. The pain seems more than she can endure, but then it eases, and she sucks in great lungfuls of air. Just a bit longer and He will be here.
She whispers to her Child, and the whisper echoes through the ages, carries the hopes and fears of all the years in the few short words.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.