Advent is a season of expectation, hope, and preparation for the miracle of God’s entry into our world as a vulnerable infant. But do we pause often enough to ponder the birth itself? The nativity stories found in our sacred texts tell us little about it, though what we know is Mary was a relatively young woman, she was pregnant at an unexpected time in her life, and she delivered Jesus under less than ideal circumstances.
In my advocacy work for global maternal health in the Church, I have often talked about Mary’s pregnancy as “high risk.” The more I learn about the dangers girls and women face and the common struggle to bring new life safely into the world, I realize how much we have taken Mary’s survival for granted. Somehow in the expectation and celebration of the Christ child, we have overlooked the mother who bore him.
In my eyes the miracle of the Christmas story is two-fold: both mother and baby survived the experience of childbirth. Mary was able to care for her child, to nurture him as he grew into a young man, and to encourage him in his earthly ministry. I’ve often wondered how different the life of Jesus would have been if he’d been born an orphan and never known his mother.