This is the title of a song written by Andrew Peterson on his Behold the Lamb of God cd and it goes through the story of the labor of love that Mary must have gone through when giving birth to Jesus. He brings forth the dirt, the blood, the smells, the sights, the sounds, everything about the story is brought to LIFE. So often we look at the birth of Christ and we know that it is not necessarily like the beautiful pictures of the baby jesus with a halo around his head and super chubby legs and his mother and father with looks on their faces that say “aw, isn’t that sweet” and we think, “aww isn’t that sweet?” We take it out of context. “Yeah, yeah yeah, he was born in a manger, she had to travel on the back of a donkey, yeah, yeah.” When does it become REAL to us?
I can tell you when it became real to me.
I was pregnant with our first child and she was due around Christmas time. Actually, she was due December 28th and for one of the services, either sunday morning or sunday night, I sang this song as a special number. During one of the parts of the song the Singer, Jill Phillips I think it was, kind of groans through the word, as if she is going through labor at that point. As I was singing the song, and feeling the child that God had blessed me with being able to carry start to move inside my body, I was overcome with the feeling of “This actually happened!”. God came forth to be born of a virgin…to go through the trials and struggles that we humans go through so he could be the perfect sacrifice, the perfect high priest..understanding our weakness because he has been there. He allowed Mary to go through labor, the pain and anguish that labor can bring, the weakness, the feeling unprepared and inadequate to take care of this little child that is going to come forth into the world, the tiredness, he allowed her to go through all that to bring about Gods perfect will. How amazing, how wonderful. I think that it was not just a labor of love for Mary to go through that but also for God to allow his perfect son, the Holy One, to come to the earth in that way.
For those of you who have gone through labor, in ANY way, helping a woman in labor, going through it yourself, being a doula, being a husband, or just being present, you know what labor is like. I have been involved in it twice, once watching my sister be born at home, and the 2nd time when I was GIVING birth to my first child. I am getting prepared to go through the birth of my 2nd child, and I remember what it was like. Its amazing, its life altering, its smelly, its bloody, its something that you must have a strong stomach for (in more ways than one!), there are a few items that you truly NEED for a healthy birth, and many things that you WANT for the comfort of the mother and the baby. I take into account the comfort factor of my husband, but that is just me, at least before the labor I take that into account, during labor, all bets are off.
Regardless, I look at where Mary gave birth, I look at how the savior of the world came into being; if I think labor in a hospital room, where they have all the newest technology, they have running water and baths and soap and a nice (nauseating really) anti-septic smell with the hand cleaning foam on every wall is smelly and bloody and yucky…can you imagine what it must have been like to give birth in a barn/stable? I am sure there are some women out there who have done this…but I haven’t. I had the privilege of having my husband by my side (as did Mary), my best friend who also happens to be my sister-in-law and my mother by my side while I went through the scary moments and the pain of bringing a child into this world. The bible doesn’t mention if Mary even had a midwife with her. But it does sound as if she had the company of beasts of burden with her…being in a stable and all. The smell of cow dung mixed with the smell of Mary’s AND her husband Josephs sweat, the tangy irony smell of blood mixed with the sweet smell of hay or straw…the smell of afterbirth mixed with the wet-dog-smell of wool from the sheep…there might have even been a dog or two in there for all I know.
Where are the ice chips that they have you chew? Where is the motorized hospital bed that can move? Where is the water tub that you can labor in? Where is the anesthesiologist? (not saying you HAVE to have one, just that there was not an option for her here!) Where is the crew of NICU nurses that are standing on call in case they have to rush in, as they did with my daughter, to make sure she is not going to stay purple…Where are the clean and sanitized cloths for cleaning off both mother and baby? Where are the heated blankets and the yummy chicken broth and cups of Gatorade that are brought in for you? And one of my favorites, where is the food cart so the new mom can have some sustenance after 28 hours of labor to replenish everything that was lost during the birth? Where is the shot of medicine they give you to stop the hemorrhaging?
I don’t know if Mary had any medicine or a midwife or anyone even beside her husband Joseph that was there to help and assist in the labor and delivery of her new child, our Lord. What I DO know though is that God brought about his perfect will through all of this. He allowed the suffering, (regardless of how easy a birth is, there are times when it is hard, I have been told… mine was “easy” compared to horror stories I have heard, but it was still labor!), the pain and anguish, and everything that came about from the labor and delivery, so that we could have someone who was human and could empathize with our weakness. How awesome, how amazing. I am not trying to deify Mary in any way. I am just trying to bring it home for you and to put my thoughts down in a way that maybe you might look at the birth of Christ in a different light. People say birth is hard on the moms, and I think it is, I also think its hard on the babies being born too.
Here they come from a nice warm cocoon of closeness where everything is safe, muted, shaded, all of their nourishment is met through their belly button (seriously, side note: how cool is that?) without any effort on their part, they are close to their mother’s voice, her heartbeat, the temperature is most of the time JUST right for them… and into a world of harsh bright lights, loud voices, they no longer are wrapped up in the perfect temperature, they now have to work for their food, they have to alert people to what they need as best they can, mostly by crying, it’s harder and different for them to expel waste from their bodies… it’s not always safe when they arrive, they are not as close to their mother’s voice or heartbeat as they once were, regardless of if a mother kangaroo cares or not, it’s not the same. This is what our Lord went through! To think that the one who saved me from my sins came into the world like is…its very humbling.
Labor of love? I sure think so. Just on Mary’s part? Nope. I think it was also a labor of love on our Lord’s part too.