Thanks for joining me once more for an Advent devotional. Mary’s emotions during her pregnancy, that first long Advent, reflect so many of our own emotions as we pass through life. Some emotions are positive, like hope and peace, but others are less comfortable emotions like confusion and pain.
What is the worst pain you have ever felt? A kidney stone? Appendicitis? A broken bone? I have a tendency to block out muscle aches or spasms, but after eye surgery, I experienced pain that came in such peaks and waves of agony that for hours it was hard to catch my breath. I gasped as relentless pain stabbed my eye and made me writhe and cry out for relief. It took all my strength to master the pain.
When a woman faces the birth of her child, she has a first-hand opportunity to experience pain. The muscles tighten, pulling on the back and forcing the woman to double over. The contractions come one after another, closer and closer together until the beginning of one contraction overlaps with the end of the preceding one. Coping with those contractions requires all the woman’s capacity to focus.
As Mary moved through her labor towards the moment of delivery, she experienced…pain.
Bad as Mary’s physical pain was during that long night, it was short-lived compared to the pain she would experience many years later when she watched Roman soldiers nail her beloved son to a cross. It is awful to feel pain in your own body, but to stand nearby and see someone you love writhe in pain is agony of another kind.
In Isaiah 26:17-18, the prophet wrote about being in distress: “We were like a woman about to give birth, writhing and crying out in pain. When we are in Your presence, Lord, we, too, writhe in agony.” But just two verses later he says, “Yet we have this assurance: Those who belong to God will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy!”
Whether your pain today rises from your physical body or from your heart, you still have cause for hope.