Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Different Sort of Christmas Story

by Dina Sleiman

As we passed through the walls of Bethlehem, I felt the first tightening tug at the base of my belly, ripping me apart. I was too tired to gripe at Joseph about his poor planning, so he dragged me around town, until finally I lay in that prickly hay-pile in the stall next to an old spotted brown and white cow.

By then the pain was shocking, starting with that sharp piercing claw beneath the weight of the baby and radiating out in heated waves, circling my body, pressing my spine, struggling to break it in two. During those short pauses I tried to breathe steadily, to save up some air, and to swallow back my fear, wishing I had known, that I knew now…wishing my mom…

I stared into Joseph’s eyes looking for sympathy he couldn’t possibly feel, and then past to my only other comfort on this chilly, pain-wracked night. Could a “father” possibly understand? As I gazed beyond the braying donkeys and dusty sheep to the deep blue sky with that strange blaring star, I sensed maybe He did know something…about birth…and then the next sharp crest of agony hit.

There were no breaks now. They crashed one after another, until I felt the shock of virgin flesh opening…the tear…the press of a soft skull against my skin. Stretching, burning, and finally…a release. I heard a soft cry as air hit his lungs for the first time. I giggled through the haze of pain and joy. Joseph told me to push again.

As the squirmy body slid out of mine, as our flesh parted, I reached between my legs, scooped him to me, pulling up my robe, laying him against my damp chest, wanting him to know that this was life, not merely fetal death.

So this wrinkly, pink person covered in goo would be a king? I guided his lips to my nipple, an age old ritual I knew well, and he sucked with newborn vigor, happy to be reattached and drinking me, feeling my heart pump, my warmth, feeling almost at home. When I thought it was over, there was one last gasp, but I was lost in the silken touch, in the scent of his tiny body. Marveling at minuscule fingers and toes.

Then Joseph took him to wipe him, as well as he could, with some rags from our pack. Surveying our surrounding I just had to think, what a crummy place for a king.

What if there had been…some mistake…it was too much to consider, and I focused on Joseph searching the stable for tufts of wool, lining the manger, of all things. Once he was finished, I thought it might do, as he laid the baby down.

Finally able to relax, feeling like I had run for days and days, I looked outside, thought I saw in the sky…a burst…of delight?

A flowing, swirling, I could almost hear…singing?

And then some shepherds showed up. Why not? I figured, what’s a few more lambs. They looked cleaner than these mangy animals. The shepherds had come to worship the king. Something about angels, they said, and I felt an icy unnamed lump in my chest melt.
I looked down towards the wise baby eyes, and dreamed that perhaps he would not be another king of carved armor, glinting swords, and spiked chariots, but a king…of growth, of life. A shepherd, maybe, like these, and that I…woman…might be free.

God births his blessings onto the earth through his children. Take a moment to consider what God desires to birth in your life. Many of us dream of birthing stories and books. You may long to birth a ministry or a relationship. Ponder the agony and wonder of pregnancy and childbirth, and contemplate what God might speak to your situation through them today.


  1. Dina... Wow. What a beautiful new look at a miraculous story. Thank you!

  2. Dina, I love to put myself inside Bible characters' skins. What a marvelous job you did with Mary...

    Merry Christmas, Inkie!

  3. I often thought of how Mary felt not having any woman around (that we know of). Especially mom or a sister at such a time.

    Beautifully done, Dina. Just what I expected from you. And how true to equate it with the fear and excitement and pain that comes with any 'birth' in our lives.

    I'm lifting up prayers today for a special friend of mine who is having surgery. I'll leave the rest unspoken but if you feel led, join me in asking for peace and a complete healing.

    Merry Christmas and safe travels to all our friends!

  4. Good morning, Inkies! I'm enjoying the first day of the kids Christmas vacation today. We'll be baking cookies later.

    I'm glad you all enjoyed the story. When I noticed I had been assigned a Christmas post I thought, oh no, I'll have to come up with something sweet and cozy. Then I thought of this story, which was already sitting in my computer files. It was originally a narrative poem, but I changed it to a short story since people aren't too fond of poetry these days.

    So welcome to Dina's edgy Christmas :)

  5. This Advent I have heard and seen image after image after story after wondering of Mary and her calling. She had to be bold. She had to be a stand out in a culture that put women in a hut and told them to be quiet. Yet, God gave her a voice and celebrated her womanhood. I think I'm called to be bold and to come out of my hut and live in the light and risk opening the door to possibilities. Thanks for the thoughtful message this morning.

  6. Wow, Dina. You gave me chills down my spine. Very lovely. Thank you for this.

    Enjoy your cookie baking!

  7. Great take on an age-old story, Dina! Beautifully done. Now I wanna see the narrative poem version. ;-)

  8. Mary and Joseph were obedient and they trusted God and His promises.
    They had the slightest idea that Gos is starting a new calendar for for the human race.
    Their earthly minds were not be able to absorb the whole story of salvation at that moment and they had to take it one day at a time.
    The same happens with us when God starts something in our lives that require drastic changes and even become refugees.
    What matters the most is what happens at the end of the book...

    Good post Dina. You are a keeper :)
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  9. Thanks Dani. You're exactly right!

    Don't know if Mary and Roseanna will be back. Gosh we're all so busy with Christmas--but please know how much we appreciate you stopping by this busy day. (and snowy, depending where you are!)

    Now, am I the only one thinking this, but doesn't it look like our Suzie has a pony tail on the side of her head in that little photo?

    I'm pretty sure it's not, unless she had it done on her way to cheerleader camp. (love ya Suzie Jo)

  10. Mary, sounds like a great plan, and you have the perfect name to pull it off :)

  11. Suzie and Niki, so glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Roseanna, just imagine this stories broken into lines and stanzas. That's all the difference, yet the poem scares people away. Go figure. Maybe I'll change all my poetry to prose.

  13. Dani, thanks for your support. Love you.

  14. Deb, I think it's a little birdhouse behind Suzie's head. LOL.

  15. I was Mary in a living nativity one year and I sang Breath of Heaven (which is a beautiful Amy Grant song). I was terrified singing on the street in front of our church... definitely a humbling experience!

  16. Jen, we had that experience at our church one year for Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. One of the song leaders was 'with child', and she came in down the aisle in costume, singing that song. Amazing! I'll never forget it.

    I'm sure you touched a lot of hearts.

    Dina, It might be a birdhouse behind Suzie's head but I like the ponytail idea and I'm sticking with it.

  17. Dina,

    You have a way w/ are an amazing storyteller. I loved your posting today. loved it...

    Wishing you and yours every blessing as we celebrate the birth of Christ.


  18. Jen and Deb, we did a dance to "Breath of Heaven" last Christmas. It starts with just Mary but then adds candle dancers and angels en pointe. By the end we have two men come out to lift Mary and the angels. Ahh. The memories.

    You can see it at

  19. Thanks Karen. That means a lot to me.

  20. Dina, how lovely this is. Thank you so much.

    God has been moving me to focus on the simplicity and beauty of the first Christmas. This has been part of it! Thank you!

  21. Dina,
    This was awesome. I'll have to check out the video to Breath of Heaven later. I love that song. Thanks for sharing this post with us today.

  22. You're very welcome Jill and Susanne.

    Merry Christmas to everyone, but no pressure (see Sandie's post :)

  23. Absolutely loved this take on the Nativity story, Dina. I only wished I'd taken the time to read it before I went to our Christmas Eve service. Everyone was asked to bring brief stories or poems to share and this would have been perfect. Hmm...maybe next year I'll share this, eh? Thank you Dina.


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