What a Birth Means to a Mom
For many of us the story of our birth doesn't answer questions about the purpose of our life. Birth stories typically amount to no more than nostalgic moments at family gatherings. One parent (if you’re so blessed to have a relationship with one) smiles wide and recounts an anecdote for the hundredth time to the chagrin of all who must endure it. My mother is guilty of it all the time.
Her favorite tale is my in utero umbilical cord trick. I had tied the cord in a knot while in the womb. When I popped out, the doctors knew I was a few good pulls away from starving myself. “It is a miracle he’s alive today,” my mom always says, normally adding, “God must have created him for an important purpose.” With this statement, my birth story turns into a mandate. It puts serious pressure on me to do things that matter. Every good thing I do now becomes potential material for my mother to link back to my providential preservation at birth. Speak of it, I really need to start producing some of that material.
Ancient biographies of great figures such as Alexander the Great and Caesar Augustus use circumstances at birth to predict greatness. The Greek historian Plutarch recounted two particular signs predicting Alexander the Great’s conquest of the known world. First, the Temple of Artemis burned down in Ephesus when Alexander was born. Second, his dad’s triple victory on the day of his son’s birth tipped off the prophets to his significance.
“On the same day, three pieces of news reached Philip (Alexander’s dad), who had just captured Potidaea: Parmenio’s defeat of the Illyrians in a great battle; the victory of Philip’s racehorse at the Olympic Games; and the birth of Alexander. Pleased as he surely was with these tidings, Philip was even more elated by the prophets, who declared that his son, as he had been born on the day of a triple victory, would be unconquerable.” - Plutarch, Life of Alexander 3
If the signs around ancient births deliver symbolic messages, it makes me wonder what missing messages are tucked into the birth narratives of Jesus. What statement is being made by the sequence of events around Jesus’ birth that we overlook today?