Audra and I like Christmas music, and it's fun to see Henry joining the tradition. His favorite right now is "Olly Jolly Christmas," in which he invites the listener to have a "couple cheers". For all their beauty and nostalgia, however, some Christmas songs miss the mark on realistic descriptions.

The Nativity of Christ, Serbian Orthodox St. George's Church, Strasbourg, France. Photo by  Ralph Hammann ,  CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Nativity of Christ, Serbian Orthodox St. George's Church, Strasbourg, France. Photo by Ralph Hammann, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Since it was her first pregnancy, Mary could not know fully what to expect. (Women who have gone through pregnancy before may come to expect the unexpected.) But I'm sure Mary had a general idea of what was in store for her. She likely knew women who had died in childbirth or who had lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth or early infant death. I wonder if she worried about doing something wrong in this once-in-a-lifetime situation.

I can identify with Joseph as he watched the woman he loved suffer as her time drew near. He had to try to help while feeling helpless himself. Such unusual things had been happening so quickly over the past few months, and now this baby was coming who was not his baby.

A few weeks after the birth, Simeon warned Mary that "a sword will pierce even your own soul" (Luke 2:35). Perhaps that warning is something all of us need to consider. Whether as a child, a parent, a spouse, a friend, or a neighbor--each of us will sooner or later realize that life is not easy, not fair, and not all we imagined it would be.

Yet somehow the sword that pierced Mary's soul also brought about our redemption (Zechariah 13:7-9). Each of must pass through a refining like silver and a testing like gold. But even in the midst of the fire, God is welcoming us saying, "They are my people."

Andrew Peterson's song "Labor of Love" paints a lovely picture of that "silent night" that was probably not so silent. It is performed here by Jill Phillips and friends at one of Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God concerts. You should attend sometime.