Saturday, December 18

Isaiah 42:10-16

“Now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”

As a child, I listened closely to the story: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1) During Advent, words like virgin, divorce, conceive, or marital relations made my pastor interesting for once. I leaned forward in the pew as he reached Jesus’ birth, hoping not for storks, but for a real, grown-up story about a baby being born.

But he kept reading, offering no messy details: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” (6-7) I sat back in the pew, no longer listening, wondering still. What did the birth of Jesus sound like, or feel like? In his sermon, my pastor said that Mary was a child like me when she gave birth to Jesus. If this were true, I needed to know what happened to her in that stable.

The passage in Isaiah paints a clearer picture. Gasping and panting speaks to the pain of childbirth; some translations use words like moan, groan, or struggle. The physical birth of Jesus as I heard it in church was quiet, fast, even unimportant. But God’s image of a woman in labor is loud, chaotic, and powerful. Perhaps Luke the Physician considered the details of childbirth too impolite for readers, but the curious child in me delights still in God’s messy, powerful promise of Christ: These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

Long before the first Christmas, God told us that the coming of the Savior would be a roaring celebration after a long gestation. During Advent, I praise God for the loud, powerful birth of Jesus Christ.

-Ingrid Miller

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