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  • Writer's pictureEllen Romer Niemiec

Bringing Christ into the World

Bringing Christ into the World

Mary sits on my mantle, crouched over an empty manger, waiting for a toddler to lay baby Jesus there on Christmas Eve. In this Advent season, she is everywhere. Bent in prayer and in awe of the son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, that she has just delivered. After having two of my own children, I find myself looking at images of her and thinking:

Are you bleeding as you kneel?

How much does it hurt your back?

Did you also insist, in between pushes, that you just couldn’t do it?

Were you as overwhelmed as I was when your milk came in?

Did you sit awake crying at 3 a.m. trying to figure out how to breastfeed as Joseph looked on helplessly?

I know I am not the first woman to wrestle with the challenge of an immaculately conceived mother giving birth and living in a messy world. The birth of my own children was not cute or anywhere near pleasant, and I, gratefully, had uncomplicated deliveries. My children are an absolute gift and I adore them - but my body rearranged itself to let them grow and then painfully moved back after they were born. I had milk sweats and fever. I learned the hard way how critical core muscles are to simply walk. I developed an abscess from breastfeeding that led to surgery and weeks of recovery. Even though I know my body was created for this and that my children are more than worth the struggles, it didn’t make the physical pain any less. I needed time - and a great deal of support - to really heal my body and, in some ways, my mind and soul as well.

Seeing so many quiet and graceful images of Mary feels almost untrue. Is every scene during Advent just a snapshot of one of those peaceful, sometimes elusive moments with a newborn? Where is the Mary who paces around with a baby who doesn’t know how to sleep through the night? My relationship with Mary has had to come off of my mantle and settle closer to my bruised mama heart. Her world wasn’t simple and neither is mine. Her Immaculate Conception can sometimes feel as if it keeps her out of my reach, tying her to an ideal of womanhood that will always be unattainable. But instead of tying her to the unattainable, it freed her to bring the Son of God into our untidy world, so to be with us as we are.

I don’t know what it feels like to be immaculate. I struggle with my own wrongdoings and faults. But I do know the incredible relief and joy of finally meeting a child after hours of labor. I know how deep the joy runs even as my body is still riddled with pain. As I live more into the messiness of motherhood, I find myself deeply consoled by a Savior who came into the world just as my own children did, to a mother who labored in far more desolate conditions than I. I may not share her immaculate conception, but I do know the struggles of being a woman and a mother who wants to bring Christ into the world.

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