Now the birth

Something I wrote over thirty (!) years ago, still worth your time today:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way”

Fourteen and frightened
“Behold, a young woman shall conceive”
Mary, handmaid of the Lord
more than a youth
but hardly a woman
“Overshadowed by the power
of the Most High”
Shaking her head in disbelief
but not doubt
“Then let it be according to your word”
For months the constant awareness
the tethering of two lives, one to the other
the mystery within
growing, stretching, becoming
the simple and wondrous inevitability
A child is going to be born
“Blessed are you, and blessed
is the fruit of your womb”
At meals, in her eating and drinking
thinking to herself
and smiling quietly at the miracle
Here, child, this is my body
this is my blood
Be nourished and grow strong
“And of his kingdom there will be no end”
Weary and hot
sweat glistening on her young brow
eyes squinting against the sun
and her belly a burden never set down
“And they went up
from Nazareth unto Bethlehem”
Slow and steady moved the donkey’s feet
beneath her
Quick and anxious moved the child’s feet
Counting the days
Trudging from inn to inn
tired and impatient
angelic visits only a dim memory
“And the time came for her to be delivered”
At last a stable
at least a stable
with coarse straw, and just in time
“On that day all the fountains
of the great deep burst forth”
Water breaking, gushing endlessly
parting that the child might cross
A shiver
Counting the minutes
“And she gave birth”
Fifteen now, still frightened
her whole world absorbed into contractions
wave-like setting the rhythm of birth
The whole season of Advent
painfully compressed into hours
Spine-tingling anticipation, excitement
“In the beginning”
This is it, child
there’s no more turning back
Sweat glistening on her brow again
chilled in the night air
eyes opened wide, seeing little
and pushing
“In pain you shall bring forth children”
And pushing
laboring, breathing, straining
Salvation is hard work
And pushing
fingers clenched, then stretched
and clenched again
The whole pressure of Advent between her legs, painful
and pushing
“As the mountains were brought forth”
Gasping to herself, and vomiting
So this is the majesty of creation!
and pushing
all thought of the child, any child
buried in the pain
Eyes opened more than wide, peering
into the darkness
and exhaustion
Please can I stop?
But there is no more turning back
only pushing
and prayers uttered in gasping breaths and pain
“All creation groans in travail”
And Mary pushing, aching
Must I die, Lord?
In order to save your people
must I die?!
“Not my will, but thine”
And more pushing
eyes staring wildly into pure darkness
and pain
hair stringy with sweat
and pushing
oh, God, still pushing
and screaming
fingers stretching to nowhere
And a head
at last a head
in the darkness, a child’s head
“Glory to God in the highest”
And renewed pushing
then a body, a child’s body
comes forth like a rushing wave
wet and bloody and struggling
already impatient with this world
Panting in aching exhilaration
eyes closed but seeing so much more
than dark
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light”
A new life, no longer within, untethered
Sensing that now
I must share this child with the world
Mary, handmaid of the Lord
soaked in sweat
peacefully holding her child, the child
“And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”
Rags, and yet priceless tonight
Watching the child, her child
in wonder
checking every feature and detail
marveling, so this is a baby!
my oh my, so this is a baby!
How can the world ever be the same again?
Lifting the child
gently to her breast
tiny fingers touching a whole new world
a whole new world!
And a tiny mouth gently tugging
at Mary’s nipple
“And you shall call his name
God with us”


David R. Weiss / 12.08.84

This poem was my final project for my first class in feminist theology Fall 1984. After learning about how women’s voices — indeed their whole bodily experiences — are largely silent (silenced!) in the Bible, I decided to give voice to Mary’s pregnant body. A rather audacious goal for a 25 year-old man! I turned to my mom and a seminary classmate to learn about the feelings of pregnancy by listening closely to their experiences. Then I turned to the biblical text, more or less following Luke, but listening for other biblical echoes along the way. This is the result. 

3 thoughts on “Now the birth

  1. David I have a friend who is expecting rit now during Christmas. I sent her this. You always amaze me. You so “get it” on so many levels. Merry Christmas to my favorite prophet.

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