By Rev. Melanie Kim-Hamill
Advent Reading for December 20, 2021

Luke 2:5-7
5 He went to be registered with Mary,
to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
6 While they were there,
the time came for her to deliver her child.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and
wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke is the only gospel that uses the word manger in the telling of Christ’s birth. Mary lovingly wrapped her baby in a swaddle and laid her son in the only bed she could fashion in a stable. Even in the most unsuitable environment for childbirth, the mother of Jesus restored a humane dignity to her circumstances in this act. The miracle of all miracles was born in the lowliest of conditions, fit for domesticated farm animals. We know this theme is one that continues and shapes Jesus’ ministry. Jesus always provided food and healing along with his teaching and preaching because Jesus’ way is that of humane dignity, modeled first by his mother, Mary.

I always marvel at how in just two verses we are meant to truly appreciate the harrowing journey of a full-term pregnant woman on a donkey to Bethlehem. A journey hoisted upon her by a paranoid King. She should have been in her home, a safe and warm environment with women around her to welcome the birth of her first-born child. Instead, she was forced to travel in her condition. Furthermore, how did she get turned away? It doesn’t take going through labor to appreciate how difficult Mary’s labor story went, but as a mother who has carried and delivered my child, Mary has deepened my appreciation for her story. I also can’t help but think about how our lack of comprehensive care for mothers in this country is affecting our society in harmful ways. Did you know that women are dying and becoming disabled due to pregnancy, labor and birth at a rate worse than in Syria, a war-torn nation raging with civil unrest?! Research is showing that our post-partum care or lack of is contributing to such numbers. We say we celebrate motherhood in this country, but we need to create a better way for mothers. A way that would have supported Mary, today.

Thankfully, congregations like ours are partnering with Family Promise and the Francis House Initiative. The FHI will serve a very small and specific segment of the houseless population, specifically pregnant and newly delivered women. If you would like to learn more and provide essential supplies for houseless mothers and their babies, please contact Volunteer Co-Coordinators Mary Margaret Barbour (mmbarbour38@gmail.com) and Cindy Schalk (schalkhome95@gmail.com). While policies are actively being created to going before government elected leaders, let us follow the example of Mary, mother of Jesus and honor Christ in upholding a ministry that leads us in the way of restoring humane dignity.

Reflection Question: How might we alleviate the burden that society places on Mothers?
Prayer: Creator, we give thanks for your humble servant Mary, who often gets overlooked for the part she played in the story of the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Her faith, her courage, her clear vision of your holy work allowed her to be a co-creator in this miracle account. Thank you for her example to us, all. As we wait upon Jesus, may we embody the character of Mary in all our hearts. Amen.