Sweet Mother Mary–
Labored Life for all the world,
Rose daughter to Son.
My name is Mary.
Not yet fifteen, I’ve given birth to my firstborn son. Though there will be others, no doubt, there can never again be a firstborn.
Joseph–he’s a good husband. He works with wood much like my mama taught me to work with dough–shaping it into something life-giving, like this cradle.
This cradle. Each night as I tightly swaddle my Baby before laying him down into this bed made by Joseph’s hands, I remember again his first bed. That manger–hard and cold under that starlit sky–was made to offer sustenance to the spotless lambs by the shepherds abiding in the fields outside Bethlehem. Particularly, these men and boys kept watch on the hillside near the Tower of the Flock, where the sacrificial lambs were born.
Like my son, these shepherds would swaddle the newborn lambs and lay them, too, in mangers in hopes that they would be kept free from bumps and bruises. After all, it doesn’t take a shepherd to know how playful a newborn lamb can be–skipping and frolicking almost from birth. But not these lambs–not those born on the Midgal Eder hillside. They’re never permitted to play like the others. From the start, these are each kept confined that they might be perfect for sacrifice.
Thus, it’s no wonder that the shepherds knew right where to find us–after the angels appeared to them, proclaiming–
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:11, 12–NIV).
Sometimes as I rock my Baby, watching as his eyes fight off sleep–not wanting to miss a moment of the day–I sing to him of shepherds and a Sheep.
O Little one, my little Lamb–
Let not your heart be worried,
For angels announced your timely birth,
And so the shepherds hurried.
They knew just where to find the Babe
Wrapped in cloths of white,
For it was there that they, too, had
Swaddled their lambs so tight.
There’s more to the song–this lullaby I sometimes sing to my Baby–but honestly, I often can’t get through the words, so choked on tears I become. That salty sting–it pierces my heart, truth be told, and it’s then that I want to somehow forget the bitter truth. Only hold to the sweetness of his breath–breathe him in but never exhale for fear that, in doing so, I’ll have to share him with the world.
And it’s in such moments by his cradle that I find that I should never have been called the favored one–blessed among women–because, another truth be told, I’m merely a selfish girl. Nothing more. Sometimes my knuckles grow white from gripping the edge of his bed–this cradle carved by a good and decent man who listened to God when everything in him likely wanted to flee from the call to take me as his wife. But he’s a burden-bearer, my Joseph.
Once, not long ago, he walked up from behind as I sat singing to our Son. He must have known–sensed somehow–that his strong and calloused hands were needed for the task of removing the vice grip I’d placed on the cradle’s edge. He approached me silently–perhaps listened for a moment to the song I sang until he heard my voice break. It was then that he knelt down and, placing his hands over mine, felt my fingers relax simply at his touch. He has a way–my Joseph–and his gentleness has so often softened my heart which threatens to harden so that no sword can pierce it.
After all, we both know–Joseph and me–what sharing our Son with the world will mean. Even as I treasure so many of God’s good and precious promises up in my soul, there’s always that lurking shadow that tries to steal my joy. But just as I sometimes feel I’ll be overcome with sorrow, Jesus laughs and suddenly, the room is filled with light, and love spills over–liquid down my cheeks as the languish in my chest subsides just enough. And I release my grip on this Baby who’s God’s Son first–indeed, His only Son–because this is truth I must never forget, though I fight to more often than I care to admit.
And so today–on this day–I find the courage to sing the verse that follows the first two–those words that sort of swaddle all the truth of my firstborn’s coming, wrap it up as the Gift it is. Yes, this Gift to the world. As I hold the side of the cradle gently–fingers soft around its smoothed out edges, sanded by good Joseph’s hands–I sing.
O spotless Lamb, my precious Boy,
You’ve come to save the world.
Please start with me, your Little Mom;
My heart to You’s unfurled.
Having mustered the strength to sing these words–this final verse–my soul feels at peace, and I bask for a moment in the light of Jesus’ joy before I’ll turn to tend to other duties that await–like baking bread to offer life to Joseph who is busy in his shop shaping wood, giving it form.
Before I leave his little room, I bend low to kiss my Baby on his brow. He smiles sweetly, his eyes closed–perhaps dreaming of the day when he, too, will skip and frolic as all boys do. He’ll suffer his share of bumps and bruises, no doubt, but on this I’m choosing, at least for today, not to dwell. Instead, I watch as my Lamb sleeps–seemingly in Heaven’s peace… for now.
And that–yes, this grace–is enough.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16–NIV).
At Day’s end, He sleeps
Infant Word who spoke the world
Into form from void.