They’re pushing nails into his wrists, and I feel them piercing mine. He screams out the way He used to as a baby — the same tone, just deeper and infinitely more painful. I see blood covering His skin and remember that’s how He looked when I first met Him. This time, it’s soaking into His beard and eyebrows and dripping off His fingertips.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
…but somehow, too, I feel like I’ve always known we’d be here.
* * *
His first cry was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. He screamed and screamed, breathing the air He’d created, held by a father who’d been waiting for Him to come his whole life and his parents’ lives and grandparents’ lives.
Joseph cleaned Him and wrapped Him tightly and handed Him to me. I looked into His eyes and expected to see a glow or a perfect face, but He was normal. A little bit like me — my nose, my chin — but purple and wrinkled.
He didn’t have control over His arms and legs. They flailed and jerked and kept coming out of the swaddling we wrapped Him in. And I thought His crying would never stop. I was crying along with Him.
He’s here. He’s here.
I hadn’t cared about the stench of the animals until I held Him. Suddenly, I worried it might be bad for His lungs or might keep Him from sleeping. I noticed how loudly the ox was lowing and donkeys braying — they were all I could hear besides His cries.
Joseph was calm, cleaning up around us. He was overjoyed and overwhelmed and scared and protective. He stepped outside and came back with the animals’ trough. He fluffed the hay inside and spread a cloth over the top before taking our Son and laying Him gently in the feeding manger.
I remember running my hands over every inch of that wooden box, checking for weaknesses or splinters or insects.
I remember running my hands over every inch of that wooden box, checking for weaknesses or splinters or insects
* * *
The wood of His cross has many splinters. I can see the rough grain scraping His skin as they raise Him high into the air. He doesn’t notice it, though, for the stakes in His wrists and ankles and bruises all over His back.
In all His childhood, He never spoke a single word of hatred to me, and He doesn’t speak one now either. Now, when every fibre of my being wants to scream at the guards to take Him down.
You don’t understand!
I watched them kick and whip Him, mock and question Him. But He is patient. He is kind. He works with diligence, laughs with abandon, cries with those hurting. He’s a carpenter and teacher and friend. He’s our Messiah.
“He’s my Son,” I plead at the foot of His cross.
* * *
I couldn’t believe I had a Son. I wasn’t ready for motherhood, much less mothering a holy baby. How will I stand His perfection? How will I not crumble under the weight of guilt when I yell at Him and He loves me back? When I’m harsh with Him and He forgives me?
I wasn’t ready for motherhood, much less mothering a holy baby. How will I stand His perfection? But God… I thought
The fears washed over me… But God… I thought. God chose this. He told us. He knows.
Suddenly, a group of men walked through the door. I placed my hand over Him by instinct. Joseph asked who they were.
“Shepherds,” one of the men said. They told us angels had burst through the night sky over the fields. That the one with the largest wings told them to come find their Messiah here, lying in a manger.
They asked if they might hold Him, their Creator. Their King. I nodded and handed my baby to the one closest to me. I watched as this group of men, smelling of dirt and lambs, tenderly held my Son and looked at Him in awe. A few of the men were laughing, praising God. The one cradling Him had tears in his eyes.
They glorified the Lord, commented on how normal He looked, took turns touching His small hands. They returned Him to my arms and ran to tell the town about my boy. “We have to,” one said. “Why should we keep Him hidden?”
And as they turned to leave, I found that I couldn’t reply. Words left me, and I watched the men shuffle out of the room. These rugged strangers needed to tell the world about my Son, but I needed to sit. To be. To soak in all that had happened and prepare for what would come. I needed to remember every detail, every smell, sight, feeling.
A part of me felt like I would need these memories later.
The last two shepherds were making their way out through the door frame. I couldn’t hear every word they said, but I did catch something…
“We’re saved,” one whispered to the other.
* * *
I sit and stare at the cross, not really seeing it. My eyes can’t focus. They just gaze blankly. Grey clouds are slowly rolling past Him in the background. Everyone is crying all around me, I’m drowning in their cries. And then I hear a voice whisper…
I’m drowning in their cries. And then I hear a voice whisper… We’re saved
I blink and feel life rush back into me. I look over at John and see his face in his hands. I turn my gaze toward my Son and see his lifeless body hang high above me. His eyes are closed almost as if He’s sleeping. He always slept so soundly, so peacefully.
The tears pour out of me again, the grief and anxiety sucking at my heart, closing up my lungs. I sob with John and all the mourners around us, and all I can think is How can this be?
And the same whisper comes again, this time more clear and sure. Not so much a whisper but a distant memory of an angel standing in my doorway when I was just a girl with the same question on my tongue, and he said:
Nothing is impossible.
The words circle in my head as John lifts my arm to help me stand then pulls us toward home. Our feet drag, sifting dirt into our sandals, our voices silent. He told us He would be back — but I watched Him die. I watched Him stop breathing.
We arrive home, and I curl into bed. My tears are gone because there’s nothing left to cry. My body aches from so much sobbing, so much hurt. I exhale deeply and close my eyes.
Now we wait.
* * *
The shepherds are gone, making rounds through the streets. Joseph is sleeping, and I watch our Son do the same in my arms. For the first time, it’s quiet here. I look at Him and wonder, What will you do? Who will you be? How will this end? And a sinking feeling fills my stomach.
But then the angel’s words are rushing in… He will be a great man. He’ll reign on David’s throne. He’ll have a kingdom that will never end. He’s the Son of God.
I look at the baby in my arms, His chest slowly rising and falling, His soft skin smelling fresh and new. He’s normal, but He looks beautiful to me. And so calm. “You have a big life ahead of you,” I say to Him softly.
“And now we wait.”
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