The crib and the cross and “the apart”

Did you know that pregnant women used to smoke and drink?  Pregnant women used to work as though they had no “condition”.  And – get this – being pregnant came without smartapps – and (even worse) getting through pregnancy was totally without google, facebook, insta or any other “stuff”!


I wonder whether Mary on a donkey was really as distraught and disheveled as we have made her.  I wonder whether Mary and Joseph were as outcast (or heroic) as we have perfected their poor (or heroic) characters.  They were a resourceful lot before apps and social media and google.  Even in my time babying has changed massively.

My wife loves to remind me that she (and number four) had to get a taxi home because I was working.  Whereas number one was chauffeured with all the care and attention of one transporting a precious and fragile treasure.

The Christmas (baby) Story is almost a pantomime sequence of all “the cruddiest bits”.

Mangy donkey and a long hard journey.  And then there was no room at the inn.  Only a smelly cold stable (or something even more despicable).  And all this for the “Son of God” …


These two and their families had nine whole months to find somewhere to stay.  Where was the planning?  Where was the calm and balanced mother-to-be increasingly telling the unbalanced father-to-be to just stop faffing about and and get the basics done?

Our preferred baby story seems to make invisible the competent and thinking parents who might (?) have done things differently.  And as for all this “dirty stable for the Son of God” – all this stuff of moral outrage (or heroic wonder) …  A mother described birth to me as follows:

“I wouldn’t have cared if they laid me out in the centre-circle of Wembley stadium during the FA Cup Final and said “Push”!

I took from that that the birthing process is “intense”.  And then, as a father of one two three four, I got it.  The birth of new life is totally absorbing and way beyond “intense”.  In a stable?  Why not in the middle of a dirt track with the whole world passing by?

I know we like to find the human interest angle in any good story.  I also think that if a woman had written the Christmas Story, it would have been less “heroic”.

It might have played down the grotty stable (instead of the hoped for Son of God penthouse suite).  It wouldn’t have even mentioned there was no toast/strong cuppa afterwards.  And it might have mentioned that all Mary really wanted afterwards was a really good sleep without those cold and noisy (and smelly) shepherds trooping in.

I cannot remember leaving my wife to find her own way home with number four.

But we both remember the birth of each child.  We have different memories.  Mine are slightly less pain-filled than my wife’s.  But the birth of life – seeing that created life for the very first time – the noise – the smells – the fear – the joy – the real pain and the pain-by-proxy – the fear – the length of time it all takes – the questions without answers – the fear – the helplessness that is never really helplessness … ALL of that for just one small life!

I wonder if our “human-interest story” distances us from the very life we eagerly celebrate and worship each Christmas.  I wonder if “the script” makes everything too heroic.  I wonder if the crafted perfection in the telling and re-telling keeps us all nice and safe – outside the birthing space – nice and warm – detached from the real reality of this wondrous new life within.  All nice and warm and part of it –

But safely apart from it as well.

I wonder if that is how we prefer our God.