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Unexpected births

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Luke 1, 2

It was the third weekend in January, 1985. The weather was cold, snowy, and icy in southern Ontario. The church, where my husband was youth pastor, was hosting a youth rally and the guest speaker was staying with us.

Then it happened. Amidst plans and preparations for our youth event came an unexpected phone call that quickly changed our lives.

“We have a baby girl for you. Can you pick her up tomorrow?”

As a childless couple who had applied for adoption, we were hoping to someday get the call. When it finally came, our hearts and minds were in a whirlwind.

The next day, we drove to meet, hold, and bring home our five-day-old daughter. We made one stop on the way home to buy diapers and formula. Other than that, we had no nursery waiting for our little girl. No crib, no sleepers, no baby bottles, no baby anything.

You see, this was an unexpected birth.

It was the second Sunday in December of the same year, 1985. The weather in South Carolina where we now lived was chilly, but there was no snow or ice. My husband went to church that morning alone.

As our 11-month-old daughter was having her mid-morning nap, I packed two suitcases. One was for our daughter and one was for me. I knew a trip to the maternity ward was imminent.

Just before midnight on that same day, nine days before my expected due date, we became the parents of another daughter. Less than a year earlier, we never expected we’d adopt a baby in January and give birth to our second child in December.

Another unexpected birth.

On Canada Day, 1991, back in Ontario, my husband and I once again headed for the hospital. We knew the hours ahead of us would be anxious ones, for this time I would give birth to not one baby, but two – another daughter and a son. My ultrasound had revealed I was carrying twins.

Doubly unexpected births.

During the Christmas season, we reflect on another unexpected, unusual birth. No doctor, lab tests, or ultrasound confirmed this mother’s pregnancy. It was announced by an angel.

For Mary, a virgin with no husband, this certainly wasn’t what she had expected. I can’t imagine the whirlwind her heart and mind must have been in! So many questions, concerns, and fears must have run through her head. Yet she accepted the angel’s news, believing that God would work out the details.

When Mary was near the end of her pregnancy, she had to make a long journey – not in a car or plane, but on a donkey. How does an expectant mother get on and ride a donkey? She did, uncomfortable as it may have been.

The final destination and birthplace wasn’t a sterile hospital, but a stable. There were no doctors, midwives, or nurses to assist her. There was no IV drip or epidural to help with the pain. And when her little boy was born, she wrapped him in a piece of cloth – no diaper, no sleeper, no cute knitted blue hat. His bed was a wooden feeding trough padded with hay.

It was an unusual birth – certainly not what you’d expect for a Saviour, God’s very own Son.

I wonder if Mary, like most moms, longed to share her “birthing story” with her friends. After all, it was an awesome, unusual event with many unexpected circumstances. But the Bible tells us that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart” instead. She sang a song of praise to God for his mercy and greatness toward her, a handmaiden of low estate, chosen among all women by God, to bear a son who would be known for all generations to come.

No woman has ever had such an unexpected birth. For, in the end, her baby, Jesus, changed the world forever.

Valerie Bartley


Luke 1, 2 (link to BibleGateway.com)

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2: 16-19)

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