Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Days were Accomplished that She Should Be Delivered

I have had occasion to think especially on Mary's plight this Christmas season.

Unlike the comfortable manger scenes that frequent Christmas cards, Mary was very likely in distress.  She most certainly had been spurned by her community - after all, she was pregnant, and the father was no where to be found.  Even her beloved Joseph was "minded to put her away privily" when he learned of the scandal.  By taking her unto him as his wife, people of provincial Nazareth likely believed Joseph to be the father of a child begotten illegitimately.

When Cesaer's tax decree came out, Mary was already "great with child" (how big was she, really?).  Instead of staying with friends and family as her time drew near--ostensibly where she could have the baby in more comfort--she chose instead to make the 3-7 day journey with Joseph to Bethlehem.  As I have thought about this, I have wondered why she made this decision.  Was it because she felt most comfortable with Joseph, having been shunned by other loved ones?  Was it because she didn't anticipate giving birth so soon--that the Christ child either was born premature (perhaps because of Nephi's prayer in the Amercias?) or they stayed in Bethlehem longer than anticipated?  Was it a legal obligation that she be there, in that Caesar's decree required the physical presence of all family members in order to appropriate taxing to occur - being both a census and a tax? Or, rather or in addition to, was it a decision of much prayer and fasting of where to have the baby?  After all, that Christ was born in Bethlehem, not the city of his parent's normal habitation, was a fulfillment of prophecy, and this righteous couple surely approached impending parenthood with assiduous prayer and thoughtfulness.

Whatever the reason, Mary faced giving labor--her first--in a strange land without other women or medical assistance--at least those with whom she was familiar--to help ease what for any first-time mom is an anxious process.  Did she do everything herself?  Were there any complications?  Was a midwife or the ancient equivalent attending?  How much bodily fluid and blood filled the surrounding straw?  How was it cleaned up?  Was the smell horrendous?  How sterile was the environment?

As I have contemplated these questions surrounding the Biblical brevity of "while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered," I find it curious that God would have such a miracle--the greatest of all--occur under such dire circumstances.

But perhaps it is not so curious after all.  As I have reflected on this event in a new light, I find in life that God often calls for the greatest courage and faith in the midst of our darkest hours--sometimes those tinged with shambles and shame.  It is there in the dark where we find, somehow, the light of the Savior--here, for Mary, her laboring pain under the worst of circumstances gave life and light to the world.  This was a personal miracle for her, and surely one that increased her faith as her babe appeared not to have any complications.  Here, her miracle was shared with the world, and she lived to "ke[ep] all these things, and ponder[ ] them in her heart."

I, for one, will continue pondering...

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