The Voice of Martha, a Midwife
It was just another birth — or so I thought. I had delivered so many, I could almost do it with my eyes shut, yet there was something about this one that was so very different. With this child, I followed his life with interest, and I have never done that before, or since. I was there with him as he drew his final breath, just as I was when he drew his first. I was there hiding in the shadows, masked by anonymity. Yet in his dying moments, I vividly remembered his birth...
The town was packed to overflowing. The governor that year had ordered a count of the people — just to make life difficult for everyone, we all secretly thought, although no one dared to voice that at the time. All the inns and taverns were full, and when a tired, heavily pregnant young woman arrived, she quickly become the talk of the town.
The man she was with pleaded for someone to take pity and find her somewhere, anywhere, to lay her weary head. Eventually word came through that a place had been found: a draughty stable out the back of some inn. Not ideal, but better than nothing. The woman was just glad to have somewhere to rest.
Bethlehem was not a quiet, peaceful place in the dead of night. It was still partying; there was still heavy drinking, with more than a few disagreements that got out of hand. The stable wasn’t quiet either. But the child inside that young mother—to-be was ready to greet the world, and greet it he did!
I was deep in sleep, not expecting to be woken, when suddenly, someone in panic was pounding on my door. As I rose, my eyes were still sleepy, but that would soon change. I was ushered to the stable and there I helped a mother give birth to her firstborn son. It was with great joy that I handed the tiny bundle to this exhausted, overwhelmed girl. This
moment after the birth was always special, but this time it seemed like even the angels in heaven were celebrating. The young mother had tears in her eyes as I handed her the baby boy. Little did any of us know, though, how many more of her tears would be shed as time went on.
I was just about to leave and go back to my bed when the adopted peace was shattered again — not by the child or his mother but by the arrival of some shepherds from the local hillside. “We have come to see the child,” they announced. “Some angels told us about him and we have come to worship him.”
Everyone looked at them in horror. Why had they come? No one wanted shepherds around; they were smelly and unkempt, they were the untouchables. But the baby didn’t seem to think so, at least; he welcomed their appearance with a giggle.
I know now that I was in the presence of the Messiah, the holy one of God. Aside from the stable and the Visitors, the birth itself had seemed routine — I gave the usual words of encouragement, the mother pushed and shoved, screaming in pain. It was the same at every birth. But through this birth, silently and unseen at that time, everything had changed
It was only years later as I stood near the foot of his cross that I understood what had occurred. Somehow God had become man that night, in the stable, and I had been playing my part, taking my place in the story that would shape history.
God who came to us in the body of a baby,
thank you that you are still with me today.
Fill me again with your hope and peace.
Lord, I pray for those who work in the local hospitals,
who seek to save lives and comfort the dying.
Grant them skill in the work they do,
and your grace to fulfil their part in your unfolding plan.
Help me to show gratitude to those I encounter
in the healing and caring professions
for the work they do.