I have had two babies. The first was induced, so I didn’t feel those first tell-tale signs of labor that send everyone into a panic and find you fleeing at breakneck speeds for the hospital. The second, however, was a different story.
The day Emmie was born, I woke up feeling like the air was a little different. I was scheduled to be induced the next day (my babies liked the womb a LOT, staying WAY past their welcome), so I had made myself quite a list of things to do, getting in the last bit of fever-pitched nesting. But something just seemed different.
I went about my day, paying bills and cleaning out the refrigerator, then, as I was vacuuming, I stopped. That Braxton-Hicks contraction felt quite a bit different than lo, the many before it. Undeterred, however, I soldiered on. I wrangled the crib mattress to put on a clean sheet (since her sister only made it one week in the bassinet, we had decided to forgo it completely this time around), then sat suddenly down in the rocker for another bout of the hyped-up Braxton-Hicks. My whole body seemed to shift with expectancy, every nerve electric.
Something was happening.
I looked around that little nursery, with the bears stenciled around the chair rail, and thought about my husband at work, and my little two-and-a-half year old playing innocently in the other room. We were in a rhythm, the three of us. We had created our own brand of normal, and while I knew it all was going to change when I got the big news nine months before, I wasn’t expecting it to happen that day. I took those few minutes in that rocking chair, before I called my doctor and started that ball rolling, and remembered. I captured each second of the years when there were just two of us, and then three, and tucked them away with thanks, even as I gave thanks with great excitement for the future as a family of four.
This morning, I woke up thinking about Mary. A young (likely teenage) woman, very heavy with a pregnancy that had begun not with an announcement from a doctor, but an angel. And when she shared the news, it was not to an excited husband, but a shocked and scandalized fiancé, who had thought her a virgin. It took another angel to tell him that she still was.
I bet on that first Christmas eve, she also woke up with the air feeling different. This being her first child, she really didn’t know what to expect, but with this first child also being the son of God? I imagine her trembling in her maternity robe as Joseph hoisted her up onto that donkey. I also imagine it was there, in great discomfort on the back of that beast, that she felt her first real contraction and wondered if it was really different from all the practice ones she’d had thus far. Should she mention something to Joseph? Was it the real deal?
On they went until nightfall, when, finally, the skin across her belly was pulled tight and hard, over and over, until it seemed that way continuously. She couldn’t travel any further, because she knew now that this was it.
Scripture tells us that, after the baby was born and the shepherds came after their own visit from an angel, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. But I think that earlier, as she settled in for the hard work ahead in that quiet stable, she likely thought about all that came before and the wonder and mystery that lay ahead, and, seeing God’s hand through it all, pondered those things with thanks, too.
Perhaps it’s the thing for all of us to do on this Christmas Eve. The air is different this morning – electric – as the earth lays in wait to receive it’s King. Consider all that has passed this year, and the mystery that lies ahead, and give thanks for all of it, good and not so good. If you look with grateful eyes, you can see His hand through it all.
So, ponder. And give thanks.
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. ~ Luke 2:16-20 NIV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 ESV
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV