In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. —Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)
In the birth story in Luke there isn’t much about the actual birth! We hear more about the decree to be registered and where Joseph is from than how it went for Mary when it was time for her to deliver the child. The text leaves it to us to fill in the details. Was Mary’s delivery long or short? Who was there with her? Just Joseph? Or others? How did she feel, giving birth so far away from home?
This is just one of the stories about mothers giving birth in the Bible. And it is reflected in the stories of God as a mother. When I was working on my book, The Women’s Lectionary, I became fascinated by the images of God as a mother in the Bible. God is an angry mother bear in Hosea, and Jesus describes himself as a protective mother hen. One image that has captured my imagination is the description of God giving birth in Isaiah: “Now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant” (42:14).
What if this was our creation story? We already have at least two stories of the creation: the orderly division in Genesis 1 and the messier, muddier version that follows. This is another creation, the God who cries out like a woman giving birth, “who created the heavens and stretched them out,” (42:5) like a body stretching to make room for new life. Read more