Hearing the Christmas story while pregnant is a different experience. This is the second Christmas I’ve been pregnant during the Christmas season, and something about hearing Mary’s story while pregnant helps me identify with it in new ways.
After two miscarriages, I know something of the waiting. No, I didn’t experience extensive periods of infertility. My rainbow babies haven’t been “long awaited.” But they were prayed for, anticipated, and especially after my second loss there was a touch of doubt that a baby would even be coming.
During those waiting times I remembered one thing that would keep me focused on God’s goodness even in hard circumstances: God is a keeper of promises. He is THE keeper of promises. And this Christmas, I’m pondering not the baby that was promised to me (as no babies were promised, I didn’t know God’s plan), but the baby promised to a nation, promised to the world, who did come as our ransom.
Israel waited. And a virgin conceived as promised to them. The circumstances of the birth are wild and unconventional. We see this baby born not into wealth or even the arms of so much love, but in a stable. We see this mother who wasn’t accommodated while laboring but cast out by her own family–her husband’s own community. The savior born on the margins of society to be identified with the marginalized, to illustrate the depths of the brokenness of our world clearly in need of saving (Luke 2).
How could Mary not ponder it? How much fear did she feel? How much faith? After all, if you’re carrying the Savior of the World you can’t really be afraid that he’ll meet an untimely death. She had to trust God with this infant regardless of her circumstances.
Our circumstances are often what make it hardest to trust God. I could hold tightly to my plans and lose heart when it all falls apart, or I can step in faith and remember that the Lord establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Though this baby is due the day before Garth graduates from grad school, just a week or two before we move and he starts a new job. With so many expenses on the horizon, God’s promises that I am firmly in his hand steady me when anxiety rocks me.
My first pregnancy symptom has always been a dream that I’m pregnant. This summer, before I could even suspect conception, I had a dream that I found out I was pregnant and in the same day had a live premature birth. It was bizarre and I lost a lot of the details when I woke up, but I remember from the dream that since we weren’t expecting a baby we prayed to God for a name. I remember several names going through my mind as I recounted the dream to Garth–Salem? Shalom? Salome–that’s a name, right?
I looked it up. All three names, in fact, mean “peace.” So maybe it didn’t matter if the baby in my dream was male or female, or which name specifically we gave that baby. What I knew was that God was telling us, telling me, for one reason or another, “peace.” That whatever was coming next, I was supposed to trust him and know that he is the keeper of promises. That he sent us the one thing we really need already and He can’t be taken from us. He is trustworthy.
Today we wait one more day to celebrate the birth of our savior. God with us. God one of us. God for us. And each time this baby in my own womb moves, I’m reminded not to fear but to trust.
Immanuel. God with us.