How much did Mary’s heart sink when she first read the Caesar’s decree? Who in their right mind would expect a woman as far along as she was in her pregnancy to travel such a distance? Not only would the donkey ride aggravate her weary body and aching joints, but it would almost certainly encourage the contractions to keep on coming.
So much for putting her feet up and drinking lots of water. Goodbye plans for putting the finishing touches on the sweet little nursery and last few little outfits she had been stitching with love.
She continued to feel the overwhelming privilege and weight of knowing she had been chosen by God to carry His very Son. His only Son. The least should could do to worship her child and her King was to give Him a proper welcome into the world. He was the Messiah, after all, and the pure white baby garments and blankets that she’d labored over were going to be perfect.
And so it was with raw emotions, swollen body, and apprehension that Mary allowed Joseph to help her mount that donkey to obey the emperor’s decree. In her heart, she convinced herself that she would be back in time to give this baby, the Christ child, the proper greeting into the world that He deserved – with loving family there to encourage her through birth and to rejoice as Jesus uttered His first cry as a man.
Instead, the contractions hit harder and more frequently as they entered into Bethlehem. Oh, where was her mother when she needed a soothing hand and comforting word? As the miles between her and home increased with the intensity of her labor, she let go of the hopes she’d had of welcoming the Savior of the world with her family by her side. Instead she urged Joseph to find a bed where she could complete her delivery. Yes, it would be more humble than what she’d imagined, but at least it would be a nice clean place with fresh sheets to wrap around her precious babe.
The panic must have threatened to take over as she agonizingly clutched onto that old, sweaty donkey who had bore her weight on this journey while Joseph met one rejection after another as he frantically attempted to find a room. When they were at last offered a cave filled with hay, manure, and animals, the tears that were taking over from the pain of labor also might have been inspired by acknowledging how imperfect this birthday was going to be for her truly perfect baby.
None of it was as she’d dreamed.
None of it was as she’d planned.
None of it seemed fair.
Her LORD deserved so much more. How she wished she’d brought along one sweet baby blanket just in case!
Instead she had nothing to offer but to push through the last difficult hours of labor with a flustered and inexperienced husband serving as her coach, midwife, and comfort. And the nearby bray of that stubborn old donkey who had carried her to the city spoken of in prophecies.
Mary learned to truly let go of her own view of perfect that night as she nestled her baby in the grimy hay after wrapping him in burial cloth. She saw beauty in God’s plan for humble, genuine praise when awestruck shepherds came to worship.
She took all of the events of Jesus’ entrance into the world and “pondered them in her heart,” undoubtedly amazed at how perfect imperfect timing, surroundings, and circumstances can be when God is the orchestrator.
This Christmas God has given me a precious gift as I, like Mary, spend this bright and beautiful season great with child. I’m awestruck at how perfect God’s timing has been in all of the events leading up to my last few weeks of carrying this baby that He has brought into my life to bring humble praise to Him. Not much about this pregnancy has gone according to what I envisioned when I considered having another child, but I have learned that all of it is part of His divine plan to bring Him glory and grow my faith. This is why I ponder in my heart these days and reconsider what perfection looks like.
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