It’s that time of year when we turn our hearts and minds to preparing for and celebrating the most wondrous birth story and love story ever. All around the lights and decorations are going up, Christmas trees are gleaming away through people’s house windows. Everyone seems to be filled with a little more joy and a little more love while Christmas music fills the air. I love Christmas music, and I try and add to my collection of it on a regular basis. Today, while reading this over at Keeper of The Home, I discovered the album Behold The Lamb. A song that has just struck me to my core on there is Labor of Love. So often we paint nice, cosy images in our heads of the Saviour’s birth. Christmas cards depict warm, clean stables, Mary and Joseph pristine and glowing, no signs of tiredness or sweat upon them. This song really brought home to me, especially now as a mother, just what Mary went through. Imagine more the terrified young girl birthing her first child in the dead of night without the help of experienced women, and a frightened young man by her side supporting her through it all. Imagine instead the grimy stable, the filth, the manure, the stench of animals, air probably filled with the eye watering vapour of ammonia. Imagine the lack of washing facilities to allow Mary to freshen up after the birth. There were no midwives or caring female relatives here to take and clean the baby and make sure Mary had a fresh bed with plump pillows and warm covers to lay down in afterwards and a nice shower or bath to soak in. There were no high tech emergency services just a phonecall away just incase there was a “worst case scenario”. Wow, I am in awe of Mary laboring away on a floor of dirty straw, as she puts all her might, heart and soul into bringing God’s own son into this world. Jesus could have been born in a palace to royalty, but instead he chose to be born in a filthy, dark, stable surrounded by animals and chose a young, insignificant woman as his earthly mother; a woman who may not have had much by way of earthly riches, but she had a strength of character and a faith far richer and more beautiful than all the riches money could buy. From the outset, He chose to identify with the least of us and the worst of us through his birth story. What amazing love! This year, when I celebrate Jesus’ birth and why He was sent down, I will choose to paint a more accurate image in my mind of the cicrumstances surrounding his birth, and not a prettied up one. I will choose to fully appreciate the wonderful gift of love which was placed in that grimy feedbox on that night. May His grace and love touch your heart and soul during this advent season.