While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
When Jesus took on flesh and entered history to offer salvation to mankind, He didn't descend from heaven on a cloud or come down in a whirlwind riding a fiery chariot. He entered our world through the womb of Mary. Have you ever paused to consider the fact that it took human labor and significant pain for Christ to come? Most children's stories, Christmas pageants, and nativity movies skip over the labor and delivery part of the Christmas story; so it can be easy for us to overlook as well. But consider that Mary didn't have the conveniences of modern hospitals to help her out. No ice chips or hot tubs. She didn't have pain meds or an epidural. With God's hand upon her she screamed and struggled and delivered the Deliverer.
But Mary's sacrifice wouldn't end there. Forty days later at the temple, a godly man named Simeon prophesied to Mary that "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:34-35). How true this would prove. Later once He had begun His ministry, Jesus came and preached in His hometown among those who knew His mother and His family. What He said so enraged the crowd that they tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-30). Imagine the social stigma Mary bore. It must have only grown as the religious leaders of the day increasingly disapproved of and attacked Jesus and His followers. But the sword of which Simeon spoke came at Jesus' death. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and watched her beloved Son die for her own sins. She watched as evil men murdered her Son. She watched Him suffer and struggle for breath.
Although Mary's story is exceptional, as we examine Scripture and history we find that it is not unusual. God often invites people to join in His work. But His work almost always requires struggle, suffering and sacrifice be made. So this begs the question, what great deeds might God be calling you to accomplish for His kingdom in the new year and what cross might He ask you to bear? Are you willing to suffer, struggle, and labor to accomplish great things for God?