Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 12/19/04.
This was written ten years ago for my granddaughter, Leah Ann Marie Dalrymple, born 12/19/94, and for my daughter Kristi, who taught me unconditional love.
"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men'" (Luke 2: 4-14).
These mystical words, written some 2,000 years ago have new and special meaning for me this Christmas as we prepare for the birth of Kristi and Ken's third child. All the signs are there that her days are shortly to be accomplished. We have been in a flurry of activity: sewing, crocheting, shopping, cleaning, praying fervently for a healthy baby and that Harrison (4) and Hannah (3) will get over the stomach flu before she delivers. I've pushed myself to the max to get all my usual Christmas "projects" completed so I can be available to baby-sit the older two when she goes to the hospital. As I've scurried around from computer generated Christmas cards to Walmart specials to the post office/UPS, I've had a few quiet moments to contemplate Mary's plight. Just imagine being nine months pregnant and traveling by donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. For that matter, imagine it not being pregnant!
If that wouldn't bring on labor, nothing would. I have to think she wasn't quite prepared for the birth, because she wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Now, perhaps every infant was so clothed at birth, but I tend to doubt that since Luke saw fit to mention it in his wonderful story. It's all part of the majesty and mystery of Jesus' birth. The King of kings and Lord of lords being born in a manger. Since 409 wasn't invented, it probably was not as sanitary as Mary would have wished. All mothers expecting eminent delivery seem to get into a flurry of "nesting" behaviors, which usually involve 409 and Windex, bleach and soap as they clean and sanitize the home before bringing the baby into it. Poor Mary, there was no room for her at the inn, but God made it up to her. What a royal welcoming committee that baby had. "And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them" (Luke 2:15-20)
Oh the wonder of it, the son of God, Savior of the world, born unto a virgin in a tiny little town of Bethlehem in Judea. Nor did God need AOL or Ma Bell to get His message out to the world, some of whom, like Simeon, a just and devout man, had been waiting a long time for the "consolation of Israel." Luke tells us that "it was revealed unto him (Simeon) by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ." I haven't read this account for awhile, and a couple of points struck me in a powerful way. One of them was, that even without e-mail, phones, or fax machines, God got his message out via the Holy Spirit.
Luke continues the account of Simeon by saying, "He came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 'Lord, now lettest Thou they servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which Thou has prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of the people Israel.' And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him" (Luke 2:27-33). The child Jesus came to Jew and Gentile alike for the salvation of the whole world.
Mary may have been puzzled, but I believe she knew by the spirit how special this child was. God revealed it unto Joseph so that he would not put her away. By Jewish law, I believe, she could have been stoned to death, but God had other plans. He always does. We worry and fret about how things will turn out, and if it's going to be all right, and what the neighbors will think, but He who knows the end from the beginning, has it all worked out, just right. Oh, if only we could relax and not worry.
Kristi called me last night to say that she thought labor was imminent, and to tell me how to care for Harrison, who was still throwing up. I told her not to worry, easy for me to say, and then I proceeded to fall into an anxiety attack of great magnitude. My fear, and Kristi's is that she will get this flu and be throwing up while trying to push the baby out. Another fear she has is what if Ken gets it and cannot be her labor coach. I assured her I would be there for her. "If I don't have to deal with blood, but can just hold your hand and pray, I'll get through it and go throw up later," I assured her. Some consolation. If only we could just relax in God's care of us, that He has it all planned out and knows exactly what He's doing.
I doubt if Mary had a labor coach, and certainly no drugs for the pain. What a frightening thing for a young girl to experience. My heart cries out with love and concern for her and the hope that she was comforted by the Holy Ghost, and somehow given to know in her spirit that she was fulfilling her destiny, the reason she came to Earth. I doubt if that made the labor pains much easier to bear in the flesh, but perhaps it did in the spirit. There is something about childbirth that grabs us all in the gut, if we think about it for long. Oh yes, I can hear some of my women friends saying, "Give me a break! Men don't think about it. They never had to do it, to feel the pain, experience the agony, or know the joy of it. They don't have a clue." I can see how they would think that, but since all my life my best friends have been men, I would dare to say that it must be horrible for a man to stand by and watch his wife suffer so, knowing that he was equally responsible for the condition she is in, and that she could, in fact, die. Kristi's great grandfather, said after watching the childbirth agony of his beloved as she delivered their daughter, "There will be no more. I will never put you through this again." This is not an unusual feeling for a man to have. It must be terribly frustrating for men to watch helplessly as a woman travails in labor.
Of course, today we have drugs, etc., but Kristi is of the persuasion that it is safer for the baby if she just does it with true grit and not much else. For that reason, I do pray that God will allow Ken to be her labor coach because I cannot stand pain, mine or anyone else's, especially not Kristi's. She and I are so bonded on some deep level that her pain, her worry, and her anxiety, are mine as well. I do not know how I could bear to witness such suffering as that, but as I said to her yesterday, "Don't worry. God will give me grace if I have to do it." Poor Kristi. Perhaps those who say Jesus was not born in December are correct, but to me, it's a hair not worth splitting. The point is that the whole world stops for a moment or an hour, or more, each December 25, and ponders the inexplicable: God came to Earth in human form, not in grandeur and majesty, which is what no doubt confused the Jews, and why wouldn't it, since there are so many prophecies about the King of kings and Lord of lords? But He came as a helpless, vulnerable baby, born in a stable, laid in a manger, with sheep and asses his first companions, shepherds his first house guests, and the heavenly hosts singing his welcoming lullaby. His only claim to fame was that certain kings (wise men) who had traveled a great distance, following a star from the east, sought him out to worship him, bringing costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Poor little holy child, as the Christmas song goes, "Sweet little Jesus Boy, bawn long time ago, Sweet little Holy Chile, an' we didn't know who You wus." Perhaps we still don't. Perhaps we still are looking for someone else other than the lowly Jesus.
The world and the church make a big to-do about his birth, and then for the rest of the year, it's business as usual. For me, Christmas brings to mind that each of us has a holy child within us, wherein God dwells. The cares of this world and the concerns of living in the fast lane often block this child from our awareness, but he or she is still within, probably relegated to a manger in our heart. One of the things that I learned while working a co-dependency recovery program is that the child within needs to be nurtured and prized and loved and protected. From that loving place, she can flow out in grace and love to others. I got the cart before the horse for many years, taking care of everyone else but myself. That is a short definition of co-dependency, which never works for very long, and the fruit of it is exhaustion and resentment. The rewards of taking care of the child is to hear the angels sing, and to receive precious gifts from wise men of old, gifts that far exceed gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each of us has gifts we count precious. For me, it's finding myself at long last, having searched for years. What a privilege to know that God created me just as I am and He is working his wonders in my life, and of course, He's not through with me yet.
What a wonderful experience to know the love of children and grandchildren, to watch God unveil Himself in their lives in a way unique to each one. God grant me the grace to cast my fears for today, my guilts from the past, and my worries for tomorrow on Him who holds us in the palm of his hand right now. May God's light guide this new baby, boy or girl, fair or dark, now and forever more. Amen.
Post Script: Leah Ann Marie was born at 8:19 A.M., 12/19/94, weighing 7 lbs, 8 oz. She was a healthy baby and has grown into a beautiful, precocious and loving child, the joy of her parents and grandparents. None of the rest of us caught the stomach flu, proving that most of we worry about never happens. God be praised. Happy Birthday, Leah!
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Joy to the World"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 12/18/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 11/14/08.