“Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow
For all is hushed
The world is sleeping
Holy star, its vigil keeping
Still, still, still
One can hear the falling snow”Austrian Carol
I love this Austrian carol about baby Jesus and His mother, Mary. It doesn’t matter to me that He was most likely born in the spring – the Christian world has celebrated Christmas in December for centuries. What is meaningful to me is that I have held, rocked and nursed a newborn baby while snow fell. I learned to love the hush of late night feedings. There’s something special there.
I (mostly) enjoy the hustle and bustle, fun, family, friends and food that is Christmas today but the real meaning for me is found in the stillness. Staring out the window at falling snow is mesmerizing and even soothing. I find in the stillness the time and space to slow not only my breathing but my thoughts as well. It’s in those quiet moments that I can focus on the first gift of Christmas, a tiny baby who became the Savior of the world.
As a mother who has given birth, I have my own experiences as a lens with which to view Mary’s experience of pregnancy, labor and birth. As a midwife who has attended many, many births, I have a more complete lens. Women are amazing and powerful. The birth process is amazing and powerful. It’s also hard, sweaty, primal work. Mary did hard, sweaty, primal work to bring forth her firstborn son. The wrapping in swaddling clothes would have come after the first nursing, the placenta delivery and getting mom and baby cleaned up.
She, like every mother, would have experienced the soreness that comes after birth, the tenderness that accompanies early nursing experiences, the sleep deprivation, the hormonal changes and most likely, the uncertainty of being a new mom. It’s scary enough to raise a “normal” child. How on earth do you raise the literal Son of God?
When I had a baby during the Christmas season of 1989, I thought of Mary. He was and is a joy to me. Losing him would undo me, as would losing any of my children. Sadly, I speak from experience. When I had a miscarriage of a much-beloved baby girl on my son’s 3rd birthday in 1992, I thought of the anguish all mothers must surely go through when they lose a child, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. I thought the grief might kill me. When I buried my 17 year-old daughter a week before Christmas in 2005, I thought of – and wept with – Mary who saw her son brutally crucified.
Because of the baby that Mary bore, the Word made Flesh in a tiny boy, I have learned that my griefs can be borne and my sorrows carried. Grief has flattened me, but somehow, almost incomprehensibly, my faith grew because of that baby who is now my Savior and Comforter. I visualized myself kneeling at His feet and sobbing in His lap in absolute anguish. My load was lightened, just enough to make it another minute, another hour, another day. I still cry over the babies and children I have lost, but I am eternally grateful for the baby in the manger who became the man on the cross and ultimately the Resurrected God of Eternal Life.
In the stillness, I remember Him. I honor Him. And I reach out across the centuries to Mary, His mother, with my mama’s heart with gratitude for bearing and raising the Son of God.