This Wednesday night my family had a really special opportunity to join a church for their “Stroll through Bethlehem” outreach event by posing as Mary and Joseph with our seven week old baby girl wrapped up as baby Jesus. The whole experience came to life for me in a surprising way that has helped me realise how much we, as mums, can relate to Mary and be thankful for what God has done for us.
When I see nativity scenes, they are so beautiful. A perfect, peaceful, holy scene. A family content, together living out God’s wonderful special plan. The baby isn’t crying, the place is clean and private and the night sky is clear and bright. Beautiful.
I thought being a part of the nativity was going to be a really lovely serene experience. But it didn’t turn out like this for me at all and I realise it probably wasn’t as lovely for Mary as all this either.
So here is what happened Wednesday night and the many ways it went terribly wrong ……..
The afternoon started with an automatic text message alerting me to the fact that a storm was on it’s way. “Oh great” I thought “Here we go…”. My son is scared of storms you see and his anxiety was immediately heightened. My baby was needed a feed and my daughter needed to be collected by us from daycare NOW! Of course I still hadn’t packed what I needed to bring for the evening either……
I wasn’t prepared for this.
Panic mode hit and it was ‘ON’.
Things were chucked in the front seat of the car, my baby was rushed through a feed while I bellowed instructions to my son who was almost frozen with fear that a storm was coming, we drove to daycare as quickly as legally possible trying to beat the brunt of the storm…. all the while trying to assure my son that it would be okay as he tensed and whimpered with every strike of lightening he saw.
We ran through the rain and returned to the car. Now I had a panicking 7 yr old, a distracted 3yr old, and a baby in the carrier ‘trying’ to sleep… two bags, an umbrella, and a truckload of artwork and Christmas craft my daughter had so carefully made to bring home. (all we were missing was a partridge in a pear tree!).
We were wet. Stuff was flying everywhere in a frantic panic to get away from the storm that was looming.
It was a complete mess.
We finally got to the food court, with everything we needed. This is where I was to meet my husband and parents-in-law for a nice relaxed family dinner before we headed over to the church.
It was all but that.
People were everywhere, the queues for food was long. I only had a few minutes to shovel in mouthfuls of food as I babbled out instructions to my parents-in-law who were going to watch our older children for the evening. We could barely hear each other over the loud din in the food court and it was a far cry from the peaceful quiet scene I had imagined in my head.
It was loud and busy.
We finally arrived at the church to get dressed in our Mary and Joseph outfits. As I put on my shoes, they broke. As I put on the white head cover it just wouldn’t stay on no matter how I pinned it. I searched my things for the makeup bag I thought I had packed as I hadn’t had time to put any on before I left home….. and of course it wasn’t there. Nothing was going my way. I just. felt. yuck.
It wasn’t all that fun.
Finally, we were ready. We sat there on a haystack with my husband beside me, and baby in my arms. The gates opened and the crowds arrived. There were sheep bleating beside us, hay blowing around us in the post summer storm hot breeze. The goat escaped its pen and the shepherd boys ran after it. There was children and parents bustling around everywhere, snapping photos and spending their ‘Bethlehem money’ at the various stalls. We were dripping with sweat in the humidity.
It wasn’t glamorous.
And there I sat.
Feeling tired… and frazzled… and ugly… and wet… and boiling hot beneath the heavy costume.
I tried to muster up a smile to those who had come to see Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. As I sat there in a real life Bethlehem scene, I realised that this wasn’t at all the beautiful peaceful scene I imagined it would be but it was probably far more accurate to how Mary felt that night.
Mary was a mum too and wasn’t all that different to us….. trying to do her best in less than perfect circumstances.
Bethlehem would have been a buzz with loads of crowds of people all clambering over one another trying to find a place to sleep for the night ready for the census. She was probably tired and hot from the long uncomfortable trip and had just given birth in a stable with the stinky animals, and who knows who else, for an audience (thank God I didn’t have to do that! ).
She probably felt pretty overwhelmed and unprepared for the task at hand of raising a baby who was to be the saviour. And yet, God had chosen her, in that moment, to care for this little baby whom he had so much in store for and Mary sat there, taking in everything that was being orchestrated around her. The shepherds, the wise men, the star…. She treasured the moment in all it’s ugliness and beauty, trusting in God and obeying his call despite the chaos she saw.
Before we become parents we think it’s going to be this beautiful, perfect peaceful scene. But only once we are in it we realise that it’s really not like that at all. Sure, we get some glimpses and moments we will treasure in our heart for a lifetime, but most of the time it is messy, and loud, and busy, and overwhelming. Parenting is often in less than ideal circumstances where we are just riding out the storm. Feeling totally inadequate and unprepared for the task at hand.
But here is the good news.
God was right there with Mary. He had chosen her, despite her shortcomings to parent this special child. He had a plan and had faith in her. He was ready to help, all she had to do was trust in Him. ….
And this is the same for us mothers all over the world!
God has chosen you, mother, to care for these precious children in your care. It might not be the perfect peaceful scene you imagined it would be. You probably feel ill prepared and overwhelmed. But remember, just as God was with Mary, the Christ is walking this journey with you too and he can guide your path through all its ugliness and beauty.
This Christmas, I am so thankful to be reminded anew that Christ is with me on this motherhood journey and has a plan, despite the chaos and mess that surrounds me right now.
Merry Christmas friends! and peace be with you.
PS. If you’d like some more Christmas reading you might like to check out my blog post about the Ultimate gift giver, or for something a little lighter there is a Christmas Tradition you could start after Christmas this year.
I am linking up with Kell at All Mum Said for Mummy Mondays