It is 6:00 am on the morning of Christmas Eve and I have a lot to do still, but I want to take the time to wish all who pass by here a Merry Christmas.
While I know dates and times are not exact, on Christmas Eve my thoughts go to a young woman, just barely 15 years old, perhaps, who is in the final stages of her pregnancy. I emphasize - I remember the discomfort at that point and the thought of having had to travel on a donkey's back in such a condition is staggering.
Moreover, she is to give birth to her first child, so added to the physical discomfort is the anxiety of the unknown. The typical picture of this time of Madonna and Child shows a very serene looking Mary holding her Babe. I think of what that scene looked like a few hours earlier. As much as Our Mother has had greatness bestowed on her, at that moment I believe she was tired and scared. She knew the Child she would bear would be God's Son and accepted that - but I can imagine that as the contractions grew stronger and she was alone with an older husband and no other family, especially someone like St. Anne or St. Elizabeth, to help her through this, perhaps she would have fleeting moments of doubt - was the angel a hallucination? Would Joseph accept this child? What if the child is stillborn? But just as faith would sustain her Son some 30 years later at Gethsemame, she labored on.
And St. Joseph - at this moment, before the birth, he is a hero. He has saved her from shame by marrying her, he has chosen to follow the Lord's demand of him. Now he must play midwife to a young and helpless woman. Being older, it is likely he has some knowledge of what happens at birth, but also likely it is very rudimentary - men simply were not present when a child was born, as that was "women's work" in those times, and Judaic law would have made the childbed an "unclean" spot. He must help see the Savior into the world - Joseph knows this and knows there is no room for error. I imagine he is as scared as Mary, but for her, he puts on a brave face, assuring her that she is doing well and all will turn out alright. He might even have looked around and despaired for a brief moment that the best he could provide this night for his wife and Child was a stable, and felt both helpless and frustrated that this should be happening at home, but he must obey civil authorities and go to register his family. But he has faith as well, and uses his rough carpenter hands to prepare a birthing area, and catch the Newborn when He emerges.
The facts are against them. The youth of Mary. The inexperience of Joseph at midwifery. Mary's fatigue after travel and now having to birth a child. The lack of sanitary conditions in a stable. The fear of being miles from home. The weight on both of their minds that the Baby to be born must, must be taken care of because He is so special a child, and that God has placed that responsibility on them alone.
But Mary had faith. And Joseph had faith. And faith is hope.
Spe salvi facti sumus.
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining;
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth . . .