By Jill Mraz


Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” ~Matthew 1:23

When Jesus was born, he was covered in his mother’s blood. Mary held him in her arms and, with Joseph keeping watch, a new life was begun for this little family, in a cave, in the dark, in the cold. The light shone forth, and the world was changed forever. 

I have always welcomed the early dusk of the Advent season, the sky a deep midnight blue, often with purple clouds after sunset. It is a comfort to come into our warm tiny home, to sing the ancient verses summoning Christ by our candle-lit wreath “Oh come, oh come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” After a simple supper, we change into soft pajamas, and I settle into a good book as my daughter finishes her homework and readies for bed. Comfort abounds. And yet, the wind whistling at the windows and the cold seeping under the front door suggest suffering is nigh. I listen, and sometimes I am afraid. Of suffering, to be exact. 

The harsh reality of Jesus’ birth in a crude stable must be understood in its suffering. Yes, how necessary it all was. Why? Because in that suffering endured by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on their long, exhausting journey toward that Holy Night, there was also immense joy. The saving glory of the Son of God coming into the world transformed the very suffering that defined the Son of Man. Jesus is fully both human and divine, as we know. Yet, what a necessary act of providential humility this was, that, rather than coming as a king, wielding his power, encrusted with jewels in a palace, God came to us as a shivering, helpless baby encrusted with blood, in a dwelling fit for lowly animals. What a remarkable reversal of all our expectations. What a lesson on the redemptive nature of humble suffering. 

In a world grown increasingly unrecognizable, it is tempting to withdraw

from it altogether. When I am held captive by my fears of getting old and vulnerable, maybe not having enough money, and being lonely, I pray to Jesus to ransom me from these fears. To transform them as only He can. In my mind’s eye is a small book consisting of just two pages which I often open: on the left is Jesus in the manger, vulnerable at birth, and on the right is Christ on the Cross, suffering in death. And all I can see in these images of suffering is Love. In the end, nothing else matters. 

 When Jesus died, Mary held Him in her arms, and she was covered in His blood. A new life was begun for us. By his wounds, we are healed. Truly. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  



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