This Christmas, everything is exactly like it’s always been. Icicle lights drape off my roof. My artificial, pre-lit tree, adorned with a wide variety of beloved Hallmark ornaments, stands in its usual place of honor in front of the red living room drapes. My nativity scene sits on the entertainment center, and my vast penguin collection decorates every unoccupied corner of the house.

Yes, everything is exactly the same—but at the same time, everything is completely different. This Christmas offers a greater impact than usual, and it has nothing to do with the warm glow of holiday cheer or the toasty feeling I get when drinking hot chocolate and melted marshmallows. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that I’m two months pregnant.

It is very strange to think that next Christmas, Lord willing, I’ll have a five-month old in my lap while opening gifts with the family. There will be a car seat in the back of my Sebring, next to the pile of presents on the way to my grandmother’s house. There will be toys and tiny clothes and pacifiers everywhere—oh, I can’t wait! Yet even though I realize that next Christmas will be radically different, I can’t help but feel that this Christmas is the most unique of them all.

And it’s all because of Mary.

I can’t stop thinking about how she must have felt. The Christmas story in the Bible has become real to me in a sense that is hard to explain. My pregnancy differs from Mary’s in oh, maybe a thousand ways, yet I feel that I can now understand her a little bit better. Growing up, hearing the nativity story in church, Mary always seemed somewhat distant. She was a nice girl, chosen by God, to bring Jesus into this world. She was young, yes, and a virgin, which is mind-blowing the miracle of God’s ways, but I never really got her. 

Until this year. Now, I think of her situation and tears fill my eyes as if on cue. Mary was a teenager, alone, scared, and with a huge mission. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe what lay before her! When I found out I was pregnant, it was from a home test. Mary didn’t have one line or two pop up in a little circular window—she had an angel of the Lord break the news! My husband and I were planning a pregnancy—Mary hadn’t ever known a man. Our family and friends were ecstatic with our news—Mary’s family and friends scorned her and doubted her integrity and purity. My husband and I have drawn closer together through the discovery of this new adventure—Mary almost lost the man who loved her because of disbelief and shame.

The differences continue to amaze me. Just because Mary was pregnant through a miracle doesn’t mean she didn’t experience the regular symptoms every pregnant woman experiences. Every ache, every hunger pain or craving, every cramp or sore muscle or mood swing must have reminded her of the incredible task to which she’d been assigned. I feel a random twinge of pain and immediately wonder if something might be wrong. How much more would Mary worry, knowing the importance of the child in her womb? Then again, Mary realized her son was blessed by God, and would be protected. Still, as a woman, I don’t know if that would have kept me completely anxiety-free!

In the midst of my sympathy for Mary’s situation, for the emotional roller coaster she surely rode, for the unknown stretched before her like a giant canyon, lies a sense of deep respect. I don’t know about you, but if I had been in Mary’s sandals, I might not have responded to the angel so politely.  Luke 1:38 - "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said.”

I have to admit, my response would have probably been something more like “Are you kidding me? That’s impossible. I haven’t even had my first kiss! I’m too young. Don’t you know what everyone will think of me? What this will mean to my future? No one will want to marry me if I’m pregnant. I’ll have no security, no husband, no means of taking care of myself…” And probably would have gone on and on until the angel hushed me up like the Lord did to Zechariah!