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Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Imagining Christmas

Midwifery and Cosmology

Your mother’s rapid panting—then a deep breath—more panting—deep breath—panting—breath; so it went on half the night. How many repetitions? I have forgotten. Then, there was You. Your first breath. You gulped life and Your cheeks flushed. Never had I seen anything so beautiful, so perfect. I have never since heard music so lovely as Your first cry.

That night’s business should have been old hat for me. After all, I assisted mothers for fifteen years from Hebron to Bethlehem, and was present for more than two dozens births. You would think a midwife could no longer get caught up in the excitement, be surprised, or bowled over by the stunning splendor of a live birth. But there is always risk and there is always the loving anticipation of the parents. As rough as my heart could get at times, I still marveled at the crowning head and the tiny form of a new life. Though, truth to tell, there was something extra-special about Your birth.

Your father was anxious. If he wasn’t asking me questions, he was telling me what to do. I finally barked at him, “Will you please shut up?” But he would not, he could not. So I sent him to the well for more water even though my jar in the corner was still full. And that is why he was outside when Your mother gave one last grunt and shoved You out of Your warm little nest.

What hour was it when You made Your grand entrance into the world? I cannot remember that either. I only recall the cold. Your father had stuffed fabric from his broad sash and turban into the spaces between the wooden planks of the door. He laid rocks in a small circle and kept a fire in the center of the stall, and then made certain Your mother was comfortably close to the flame.

He must have run from the well when he heard Your cry, because he burst through the door, water sloshing from the jar in his arms. You were lying next to Your mother and if I didn’t know better I would say You were looking in her eyes. I know she was staring into Yours. Your father knelt behind her and both their faces were lined with gentle, joyful smiles. There is no treasure in the world that can purchase the happiness of that moment.

I added wood to the fire. Then, my work being done for the moment, I walked to the doorway. I turned to look once more at Your parents who were cooing in Your ears and gently smoothing Your wispy black hair or touching Your fingers. Their faces were yellow in the flickering light, but even brighter was the inner glow pouring through their eyes. Since it was obvious that I would not be needed for awhile, I opened the door and went out.

The cold air refreshed my weary body. I stretched my tired limbs, tilted my head back, and rubbed my eyes. When I opened them, I was looking at millions of sparkling jewels scattered on a vast, shadowed sky. Had there ever been so many stars? Were new stars born that night? Did old stars hobble out of some dark chamber in space to look at Your ruddy little face?

The chill came through my thick winter cloak, but I was not yet ready to leave the stars. That night each star had a voice. Some were singing, some chanting, a few were preaching, others whispered. A message was pulsating to earth, “Good tidings,” the stars sang. “Great joy,” they chanted. “To you is born a Savior,” the galaxies announced. “Glory to God in the highest,” was whispered through the sky, “Peace on earth.” And those trillions of voices blended in a harmony so delicious that it sucked the air out of my lungs.

Stars had never spoken to me before, and they haven’t spoken to me since—even though I have eagerly listened. But they had a message to deliver to the world when You arrived. And my heart was ready to receive it. I was so lost in their bright voices, that before I had even noticed those noisy, clumsy shepherds crowded around the doorway of Your rustic delivery room. Of course it was my job to keep a secure perimeter, so I was upset with myself that they got past me on my watch.

The stars were still shivering above me when I heard the word, angel! I swung around and saw them, those dirty, awkward shepherds. There’s a reason why us villagers like to keep those perpetual adolescents out on the hillsides and off our streets. But there they were gawking at You and I was too late to stop them. Your father ignored them—he was obsessed with You—, but Your mother listened to them intently, as if treasuring every word.

I know how these things go. Even much later, she would remember every detail of Your birth. She would remember the shepherds well, and most likely each of their names. After many years she would still recall the outrageous story they told. For I was not the only person who heard the stars that night.

Was the world ready for You? The stars were ready. But were kings ready to lay their crowns at Your feet? Were poets ready to dedicate all their works to You? Were soldiers willing to drop their weapons and embrace Your peace? Were celebrities ready to honor You above themselves? Were we ready to stop hating, stop lying, stop cheating, stop pretending, stop grasping for evaporating promises of happiness? Stop the wars and the poverty and begin loving?


The stars could tell us, but their voices are still. Why did they stop singing, chanting, preaching, and whispering? Because they heard Your voice. They heard Your first cry. They heard Your adolescent wisdom in the temple. They heard Your illuminating discourse on the mountainside. They heard Your invitation to the weary, the poor, the outcast, the prodigal. They heard the silver timbre of Your voice and went silent.

If there is one brightest star in the universe—and certainly there must be one brightest star—then it probably dimmed the night You were born. Nothing was ever brighter than the light You brought into the world. Were we illuminated by Your light, or blinded by it? Why did we feel we had to put it out?

Starry night. Yes, I remember it. I remember the young, dirt-poor woman who had nothing to give You the night of Your birth—nothing but herself. And she gave You that completely. I remember the carpenter with calloused hands and muscular arms, who held You as gingerly as if You were made of crystal. I remember the silly shepherds and the impossible story they told. Most of all—I remember the stars. They sang to me. They sang to the world, but I do not know if anyone else even heard them. I heard. I listened, and I believed them. I believe You.

One Comment

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  1. Jo Lee / Dec 25 2021

    Such a beautiful story, and such a lovely rendering, Pastor Chuck.

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