Nesting, Nativity, and a Newborn

Nesting, Nativity, and a Newborn December 17, 2023

Mary Nesting Newborn Jesus in the Nativity (Photo by A. Laflamme)
Mary Nesting Newborn Jesus in the Nativity (Photo by A. Laflamme)

It’s been wild weeks in our lives since our new baby was born! Having a newborn in the house led me to do some reflecting on the Holy Family and their life before and after that Nativity scene that we all know so well.

Do We Picture the Whole Nativity?

I don’t know about you but I have an image of the crèche or manger when I imagine the Nativity. It probably is a combination in my head of all the ones I’ve seen in homes and churches over the years: wooden stable, lots of hay, and the Holy Family. The family, of course, looks content and peaceful as if everything went just how they planned and they are not shocked at all to have this new baby born into their family, practically outdoors!

This scene alone, I don’t ponder enough in my head. Even when I do, I pass over it very quickly to the rest of Jesus’ life. I rarely dwell on the actual events that the Holy Family went through surrounding the first Christmas.

Nesting: Did Mary and Joseph Prepare for Baby Jesus?

Nesting is the idea of a mother’s natural urge to create a home for their expectant child.

As we moved houses less than a month before our baby was due, I could sense that Katie was itching to get everything set up nicely for Baby. When we found the new house two months out, we were both feeling like we needed to be prepared. Yet, it wouldn’t make sense to set up a nursery just to move it. As soon as we were in the new house. Katie fit months of work into weeks.

We know that Mary went to help Elizabeth during her pregnancy, but the story of the Gospels moves on quickly into the Nativity story.

If Elizabeth had family visit prior to birth of John the Baptist, did Mary similarly have family stay?

Did Mary have a whole part of the home set up and waiting as a nursery in Nazareth? I wonder if Mary had a plan for Jesus’ birth laid out and discussed as far as who would be there, what help she would need, special swaddling clothes and so on.

Then, how did Mary feel when nothing went according to plan – or at least not according to her and Joseph’s plan?

Nativity: What Was Jesus’ Birth Really Like?

Birth stories can vary from the perfectly planned to the cinematically dramatic.

Someday I hope to hear in Mary’s own words what it was like that night, when she first heard that there was no room at the inn.

Mary and Joseph being who they are, I am sure they trusted God’s plan for His Incarnation; yet, they weren’t immune from thought and emotion.

Once they were set up in their stable, manger, or cave, did the in keepers wife come out to help with delivery? Did Mary and Joseph handle Jesus’ birth peacefully and alone like all of the manger scenes show? Maybe they had other family in town for the census as well considering the inns were so full.

Was it really quiet like in Silent Night? I’d imagine Jesus had to let out some cries as a baby to air out his lungs and let Mom and Dad know he was healthy.

What were those first nights like for Mary and Joseph? Was Jesus a great sleeper right at the start? Even the best sleeping baby needs to wake to eat every few hours, so I would imagine they felt the lack of sleep.

If their experience of parenthood is anything like mine, it probably wasn’t a “Silent Night” for very long.

Newborn Life: Understanding the Timeline and the Flight to Egypt

Another aspect of Christmas that I never really consider is the timing of it all. There is the birth, then some shepherds, angels and a star, wise men, circumcision and so on. Then they flee to Egypt?! Where, when, and in what order?

Despite them needing an inn, I never thought much about the fact that Bethlehem was not home for the Holy Family. Were they aware of the possibility of giving birth far from home? With that, how long did they stick around before returning to Nazareth?

Then there’s the wise men. They followed a star from far away. Did the star appear to them leading up to the birth so they could get a head start? If they came later, why did the Holy Family stay in Bethlehem so long?

It seems like there is a lot unsaid about some of the nativity details, which leaves room to imagine and find out later.

Flight to Egypt

The last part of the Christmas story that amazes me is the flight to Egypt.

Traveling with a newborn or even a toddler isn’t convenient or comfortable today, let alone 2000 years ago. Did Mary and Joseph take turns carrying the Baby on their journey? I’d imagine Mary needed time to recover before walking or riding great distances.

Time to Ponder

Advent and the Christmas Season is a great time to start thinking and praying about these things.

I don’t have a lot of time to dive in and research these questions and it is almost nice not to. I love that there is room to imagine in the nativity story. The wonder of all of these questions makes the Nativity story relatable, to think about how Mary and Joseph would have handled their life as new parents to Jesus.

For now, I have time to think about these details surrounding Christmas. While holding our little newborn, I can think about how the Holy Family would have experienced all of the joys and struggles of newborn life.

Sometimes I just have to pause and be amazed and wonder how the Holy Family did it. I’ll never come close but I should ask myself, how can I be more like them?

Happy Advent and New Liturgical Year!

I pray that these questions help you to reflect more this season as well. Happy Advent!

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About Andrew Laflamme
Andrew is a husband and father. With experience as an engineer and Catholic missionary. You can read more about the author here.
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