I recently attended a day of Advent reflections and I would like to encourage you all to take some time out as you prepare for Christmas.
I found it invaluable and it helped me to reflect in a new way upon a part of the Christmas story.
As we are looking at telling God’s epic story we were encouraged to look at stories within stories and I reflected on the midwives who would have been there when Jesus was born. They tend to get overlooked. I am certain Mary did not give birth alone with just Joseph for company. She was a young girl and we know that most probably there was no inn but it would have been most likely a lodging house .The Greek word, kataluma, means “lodging place” and it’s usually translated “upper room” not “inn” It can refer to a room of a house where out of town guests could spend the night or even just a dining room. For example, in Mark 14:14, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in an “upper room” (same word used here). This is why the 2010 NIV translates Luke 2:7 like this:
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
In Luke 10:34, Luke uses another word, “pandocheion,” when he’s talking about a public inn. The thing is, Bethlehem was a tiny little place with just a few hundred people living there. Which is one reason why there was probably no inn.
They were possibly even staying at the home of relatives.
What is certain there would have been some women to deliver the baby; in other words the midwives.
This has led me to put together the following mediation on the midwives at the birth of Jesus.
Make of it what you will but for me the challenge today is who are the midwives in our society that bring Jesus to birth in the lives of those who do not know him
Here is the meditation for you to reflect upon.
Who was the midwife for Mary?
Was it family, cousins, aunt or strangers? Or did Mary do it alone with just Joseph at her side?
How long did the labour take for after all it was her firstborn?
Let’s look at the story within the story.
“And she gave birth and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”
Simple but profound as we know some of how it came to be.
Who else was there through the pain, the pushing, the contractions?
Did the waters break or were they broken?
A midwife’s role is recognised as someone who is engaged in the birthing. Their role to ease, to encourage and to facilitate.
Also they are ones who are employed to care, to listen, to notice, to intervene, to wait, to watch, to nurture, to attend often all through the darkness, in the loneliness of pain.
Sometimes witnessing endless agony, sometimes quiet toil.
The holistic purpose to deliver and to bring forth life. To reassure and to celebrate.
The transition from labour to delivery held in their hands.
Holding in this story the moments for Mary when she was out of control, emotional and scared.
In awe of those first moments of breathing and crying and glimpsing the potential of a new beginning. The precious moments of a journey and a story that unfolds and unfurls.
Did the midwife or attendants know who it was they delivered? Did they understand the significance of Emmanuel? God with us, King of all the earth.
Was it just an ordinary birth of an extraordinary child?
Did they catch a whisper of the epic story unfolding that had its birth in a guesthouse or wherever it was? How did they leave? Or did they stay?
What would you have done?
Did they leave changed, puzzled, pondering? What did they make of the name?
Were they surprised by the number and the nature of the visitors?
Not to mention the makeshift cradle! Holding its precious cargo.
Where did they go next? To another birth room helping another mum?
Was it just another day or did they recognise it as a day to them that became a day that would go down in history for eternity.
Oh…. to be remembered as the one who delivered the Saviour of the world.
Unnamed, unrecognised but with a huge part to play.
Spiritual midwives operating from deep respect and reverence for life.
Nourished by their work that night.
That night’s birthing represented the renewal of life, the renewal of nations and people.
The midwives’ vocation emerges as the receivers of life, for precious moments holding God in their arms
The first breaths of God’s son facilitated. Complete, it is finished…echoes of another time and place.
What do you make of it all ?
Where does this story sit with you and your experience of birth?
How does this story help you to see what things you must help to deliver and bring life to?
What will you bring life to maybe even without knowing or understanding?
To conclude …
The question put again for you, for church, for humanity, as midwives and “midhusbands” (a new but maybe necessary word!)
What is God calling you and all of us as church together to bring to life this Christmas ?
May God’s blessing be with you all this Christmas. Helen