At this time of year, childbirth receives much attention. This may be true because of the celebration of the birth of Jesus by many Christians. But do we have to consider the pain of childbirth at Christmas? No, but perhaps we should.
The only thing Holy Scripture has a lot to say about when it comes to childbirth is that it will be painful for the mother. The Biblical discussion of childbirth pain begins in Genesis 3:16 (NIV): “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.'”
This is the account of Eve’s penalty for disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. Thereafter, the pain of childbirth is mentioned frequently. Sometimes, scripture draws a comparison between childbirth pain and some other painful event, like the numerous woes suffered by the Israelites who “writhe in agony…like a woman in labor.” (Micah 4:10) Any woman who has given birth to a child will quickly confirm that childbirth comes with pain.
Interestingly, we are told nothing of Mary’s pain during the birth of Jesus, though she surely suffered pain, particularly in light of the birth’s circumstances. But then the gospels tell us little about the birth itself.
So why discuss pain at all at Christmas? We should remember that during this season, millions of babies are born around the world. That’s a lot of pain. There’s an intriguing nine-verse passage of scripture in Psalm 20. According to Jewish custom, these nine verses correspond to the nine months of pregnancy and are recited during labor and delivery to help the mother make it through. I’ve wondered if Mary recited this scripture during her labor.
Read Psalm 20, and lift it as a prayer for all mothers and babies during their childbirth experiences this season.