The Nativity: A Postpartum Nurse's Perspective
By Marlynda Droogsma, MSN, RN. Marylynda works in a postpartum unit at a large metropolitan hospital in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area.
Christmas is rapidly approaching. You probably have already viewed and heard commercials advertising Christmas sales. Maybe you have plans for Black Friday shopping. But perhaps, like me, you will have to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As a postpartum nurse, I feel especially blessed with this opportunity, even if it means I miss celebrating the day with my family. I have the incredible opportunity to care for babies on the holiday when we remember the best birth of all: that of our Savior. Following are some reflections on that nativity scene from a postpartum perspective.
Joseph: Most first-time dads have a certain look—exhausted, dazed, and overwhelmed. These new fathers have watched and encouraged their wives during the birth. However, Joseph's experience of birth did not include the support of physicians and nurses. He probably had to help Mary a great deal. But I imagine Joseph had that same look I see on daddies' faces when the birth ordeal is over and that baby is quiet in their arms—a mixture of love, wonder, and satisfaction. God chose Joseph to fill the earthly father role for the Son of Man.
Mary: Sweet, beloved Mary! Here is a shout-out to all the women before us who gave birth to babies with no medical help (especially no pain meds!). Thank goodness Mary did not hemorrhage to death in that stable. She might have birthed the Son of God onto a scratchy piece of fabric amid onlooking animals—we'll never know those details. Mary had been brave since Gabriel visited her and presented her with the unexpected role that would make her appear as a less virtuous woman in people's eyes. Sweaty, bloody, and tired after the delivery, Mary finally looked with awe at the child of the promise that she held in her arms.
Jesus: Holy and helpless. Our Redeemer. Our King. He was a baby. A tiny bundle. No warmer or high-tech equipment was ready to keep him stable in the stable, just a mother's skin. Bloody, crying (hopefully within the first minutes of life) and hungry. He needed to be cared for—the peace of heaven that would grow up to care for the world. What a gift. When I recall in my mind the babies I have cared for, I picture Jesus as one. I am thankful for this perspective and continue to wait patiently until that baby, who became our Savior, comes again.
Did you know?
- Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with staging the first re-creation of the nativity scene on Christmas Eve 1223, after he visited Israel. His biographer, St. Bonaventure, wrote that St. Francis wanted people to focus on the humble birth of Jesus, rather than the exchange of gifts. This live nativity was held in a cave in Italy and incorporated an empty manger with hay and an ox and a donkey (Filz, 2016).
- The correct way to set up a nativity scene is with the figures of Mary and Joseph on either side of the manger, with Mary closest to the manger. The shepherds should form the first circle outside the stable, whereas the wise men form the second circle because they arrived later. The star and the angel should hover above the stable, with barn animals scattered throughout the scene (Bell, 2016).
- The town where the Savior was born—Bethlehem—is translated from Hebrew to English as house of bread. This is no coincidence with the fact that the infant born there later told his disciples in John 6 that he is the Bread of Life, explaining, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33, NIV).
Bell C. (2016, November 2). Interesting facts about nativity scenes you probably didn't know
. MyNativity.com – ChristmasSpirit, Year-Round. Retrieved from https://mynativity.com/blog/interesting-facts-about-nativity-scenes-you-probably-didnt-know/
Filz G. (2016). The Catholic Company. The story of St. Francis of Assisi and the first nativity scene, as told by St. Bonaventure
. Retrieved from https://mynativity.com/blog/interesting-facts-about-nativity-scenes-you-probably-didnt-know/