Shirley Hershey Showalter is the author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World and blogs regularly at her site: www.ShirleyShowalter.com. In her wide-ranging career, Shirley has served as a college professor, president of Goshen (Ind.) College and foundation executive. She has also written extensively and been published in periodicals such as USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education and more.
Like most little Mennonite children in the 1950s, I memorized Luke 2: 1-20 in the King James Version of the Bible. Lots of the words seemed mysterious, even a little scary.
“Sore afraid” for example.
And most mysterious of all—“great with child” and “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.”
As I grew older, these mysteries became a little clearer. I became a mother myself, identifying with Mary, feeling her “great with child” birth pains with her. Like hosts of other mothers through the ages, I felt warm tears flow while singing “Silent Night,” holding my son in my arms while trying to imagine how much God must love us.
A few years later, I donned a light blue flannel sheet and held baby Jesus, a.k.a. Kate, in “swaddling clothes” in the Christmas pageant at our Goshen, Ind., church.
About 1990, on one of our long Christmas vacation car trips from Goshen to Harrisonburg, Va., I read the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson to our family. We laughed out loud over the antics of those irrepressible Herdman kids who had never heard the story before, and who mixed up their own language with the King James:
“Hey! Unto you a child is born!”
All of a sudden, the story was new. Tears followed laughter, and with Mary, we pondered the mystery again in our hearts.
As I write these words, a young mother is being transported from UVA hospital to her home. Her toddler son sleeps in the house of a friend. She has no family support. The Bridge of Hope partners with a group of volunteers from our church to become her friends. She suffers from severe back pain, cause undiagnosed. She’s not supposed to lift her bouncy baby boy.
She’s been through the pain of childbirth. Now she endures both physical pain and emotional trauma. Her desire to nurture her child and provide for him and her need to protect her back seem irreconcilable. She knows the meaning of being “sore afraid.”
My prayer on this Holy Day and Holy Night is that LaTonya* will be able to hold her son and hear the old, old story with him.
As we celebrate the joy of Christ’s coming, let us pray for our suffering world. May the days be accomplished that all will be delivered.
Let us actively strive to serve others in the Christ Light so that it can be said of us, “Hey! See how they love one another.”
*not her real name
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:1-20 (KJV)