This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)
Fear. Abandonment. Shame. Surely Mary felt these emotions as she and her betrothed, far from home, looked for a place to stay. Every time a door closed and they were turned away, the situation seemed more desperate. Did she know she was ready to deliver when they made their bed in the stable, or did the realization come upon her suddenly in the night?
Straw needling her back. Sweat behind her neck. Nausea. Labor pains. These are just a few sensations Mary may have felt in the lead-up to the first Christmas. Childbirth is wonderful, but nothing about it is comfortable.
On our hardest days, it’s not easy to feel God’s love. We may feel pain, doubt, confusion, or despair because we cannot understand what God is doing. When our circumstances get worse instead of better, we may question whether God loves us.
I don’t know if Mary questioned God that night in Bethlehem as she pushed through contractions, but I do know she was experiencing God’s love in a way exponentially deeper than anything that could ever be felt. She was giving birth to the Savior who would save her from her sins. What did that experience feel like? It felt like pain.
Mary was giving birth to the Savior who would save her from her sins. What did that experience feel like? It felt like pain.
The Bible is full of stories of believers who looked like they’d been forgotten by God when, in reality, they were living through a crucial part of his salvation plan. Consider the stories of Joseph, Hannah, David, Daniel, Esther, and Elijah, just for a start. The very circumstances that might have made them feel abandoned by God were orchestrated by him to show his covenant-keeping love to the people of Israel.
We expect love to feel warm, comforting, and reassuring . . . and one day it will. As Mary gave birth to Jesus, she was feeling the labor pains that came into the world through the curse of sin (Gen. 3:16). But the baby she bore would reverse the curse so that one day there will be no more tears of pain.
When we feel pain, sorrow, bewilderment, or helplessness, we haven’t been forgotten by God. God’s love for you isn’t based on your feelings or your circumstances. It’s based on his unchanging character, which is always good. The evidence of that love is the gift of his beloved Son—the baby Mary cradled in her arms.
How have you seen God’s love in your life recently? Think beyond the obvious blessings to the experiences that have shown you the tangible love of God in your life.
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
– Christina Rossetti, “Love Came Down at Christmas
This meditation appears in The Weary World Rejoices: Daily Devotions for Advent edited by Melissa Kruger (TGC, November 2021). Purchase through the TGC Bookstore or Amazon.