BY ANN RENNIE
My daughter, Grace, was due on Christmas Day fifteen years ago, but as is the way with the glorious unpredictable miracle of birth, she stalled her arrival till early January.
Like holy Mary, I carried my Grace for nine months and her birth changed forever and immeasurably my identity. She made me a mother. As the swollen bloom of my pregnancy became apparent I began to think about the child I would bring into this world.
I would look at other pregnant women who, it seemed to me, glowed with an inner serenity, great with expectation. And I would dream of the child within and wish her a love I never knew I possessed.
Today as she trembles on the brink of adulthood I look at her and marvel. Here is the greatest gift of all, my child, who will carry some good into the world.
I do not know where her future may take her but I do know that she has been guided well and that what she does next is hers, and hers alone, to do. In the fullness of time she will become, as John O’ Donoghue writes, the person she was dreamed to be.
As we enter the celebration of the nativity, I wonder what the village girl Mary thought of the child she would deliver. She knew that her child would change the world, Gabriel had told her so, but the repercussions of this holy conception would have been beyond the most tender and profound of her imaginings.
She knew, only, that somehow in the vast cosmic design beyond her mortal grasp, that all generations would call her blessed.
What gracious acquiescence to carry such a divine gift. Did she suffer morning sickness? Would she have felt the leaping in the womb her cousin Elizabeth did, the quickening of life? Did her boy child wriggle in her womb, and kick, and suck his thumb and tire her out as she travelled around Judea?
I imagine Mary, joyful and patient, waiting. A beautiful anticipation, mixed perhaps with apprehension, as she and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem to be registered under Roman decree.
There was no room at the inn, so her child was born in a humble manger with the gentle lowing of cattle a refrain of welcome. Shepherds left their flocks. Star spangled seraphim serenaded the Saviour.
And, as the evangelist Luke tells us, she treasured the angels’ words and pondered them in her heart.
I wondered what my child would look like and no imagining could equal the blessing of the tiny wrinkled bundle with ET eyes and button nose, the fruit of my womb.
And I pondered in my heart the miracle of my daughter.
My husband, too, was awed and delighted by this little person who would reshape our lives, creating with her birth, a family. Swaddled in fine fleece knitted with grandmotherly love for a new generation she was happy to finally be here, to start her life on Earth, to continue the story of the Irish and the Scottish, the mixed marriages of faith, the blood ties that bind, the skin and skein of another generation.
The throbbing tug of love between mother and child begins at birth and lasts a lifetime. Mary, too, must have marvelled at her own infant, he of deified destiny, worshipped by wise men carrying spices from the Orient.
The writer, Edward Hays, reminds us that Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. But we do not simply recall that first holy night. We celebrate the presence of that story as a reality in our lives, a Christ story for all time.
George Truett writes that Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet he belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet he belongs to all countries.
During this season of peace and goodwill to all men we are reminded that the world is made new when a child is born.
Our weary old world, fragile and faltering as it spins like a giant gaudy bauble in space, is made new, again and again, year after year, when we celebrate the birth of Mary’s boy child.
Ann Rennie teaches senior students in a Melbourne Catholic girls' school.
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