On Pregnancy and the Incarnation

Through the years I’ve grown so familiar with the Christmas story that I often miss the wonder that Mary actually carried the Son of God in her womb, in the same way that millions upon millions of women have done before her. The Christmas story is familiar, but the means he came to earth is utterly astounding.

I’ve been pregnant or nursing during a few Christmases, so when the Christmas season rolls around each year I think about it in a different light than I did the many years before I ever carried a child in my womb. The familiarity of the story coupled with the familiarity of motherhood puts the entire birth narrative in a different light for me. For one, I’m often astounded that the God of the universe, the God who created all things, the God who sustains all things by the word of his power, came to earth in the form of a baby. What’s even more astounding to me is that he went through the entire process of birth in order to come into this world. He lived in a uterus. He came through a birth canal. He nursed at his mother’s breasts. He came in the most vulnerable, humble way, through a broken means of bringing life into the world.

For all who have gone through that process, we likely feel some kinship with Mary. She endured morning sickness for the Christ. She gained weight for the Christ. She carried the Christ, nurturing him in her womb in a time in our world where pregnancy and birth were far more dangerous than they are in the western world today. And yet, he came in this way, as a baby, to a mom. As I’ve reflected more and more on what it all means that Christ came in this way, I’ve found great hope for all women who have felt themselves under the effects of the curse that came when sin entered the world.

We are all probably familiar with the consequences of the fall pronounced upon Eve after Adam and Eve sinned. “I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing,” God tells Eve, and many of us know this acutely.

- Maybe your womb is barren, aching for a child, pain in childbearing.

- Maybe morning sickness is debilitating and isolating causing you to wonder when you will feel joy over the life in your womb, pain in childbearing.

- Maybe you have lost more children than you’ve birthed and you feel empty and despairing, pain in childbearing.

- Maybe you have lost a living child and can’t bear to face this Christmas season, pain in childbearing.

- Maybe you have a prodigal child and wonder if you will ever see him or her again, pain in childbearing.

Or maybe your heart is breaking because you know you will never bear children, and like Elizabeth in Luke 1, your childbearing days are passing you by. You, too, are facing the horrific consequences of life in a broken world.

These consequences of the curse leave no woman untouched. Whether you have birthed children or not, the effects of the curse are pervasive and devastating. And yet, Christ came through this very means. Christ came to a woman of low estate. He came into a family that had experienced great longing (Zechariah and Elizabeth). He associated with the broken and the downcast and redeemed us through it all.

I don’t know what way you are experiencing the consequences of the fall today, but take comfort in the truth that Christ came to earth through the very means that has been plaguing women for centuries. He could have come in any way, yet he came through the birth canal. In all the pain, blood, and toil of childbearing he bound himself to Mary and broke the curse that separates us from him. He came through this painful and broken means to earth and with one victorious cry declared it all finished. The curse’s effect on childbearing has lost its power. Even if it brings great pain and sorrow, it’s not the end of the story. Christ's incarnation, his coming through birth, restores dignity and hope to women who have only known pain and sorrow. There is purpose, meaning, and even hope, in every painful aspect of life because Christ has come. As the Christmas hymn goes: “He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” There is enough blessing from the Christ to cover the consequences of the fall that threatens us all, even the pain of childbirth. 


** For further reading on this I recommend Wendy Alsup's excellent article in the December issue of Christianity Today "The Most Uncomfortable Christmas Verse" and a new book I just started reading by Aubry Smith called: Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman's Soul.