Food for the Road 13: First

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:6-7

I’m the first born child in my family: reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, and achieving.

I received both the blessing of being the centre of my parents’ universe for the couple of years before my brother arrived and the not-so-blessing of being the one on which they practised their parenting skills.

I distinctly remember mandatory bedtimes, star charts and chore wheels, strict adherence to age restrictions on computer games and movies (especially when I was going out with friends), and a fervent interest in my education – a.k.a homework and study time – that seemed far less rigorously applied to my siblings …

… while the burdens on me as the eldest to set a good example and take charge (though I think it was probably phrased more as “look after your brothers”) while my parents weren’t home multiplied.

Being firstborn had more implications for Jesus than the influence of birth order on human personality: in his Jewish background, it entitled him to a double inheritance and also signified that he was predestined to serve as a priest unless “redeemed” (see Numbers 3:45-47).

As Mary wrapped her firstborn in cloths and laid him in the manger, I wonder if expectations and entitlements were on her mind; or if she was simply lost in awe at the sight, the sound, the smell of he who embodied a new beginning – both for her and Joseph as “learner” parents and for the whole world that seemed blissfully unaware of and unprepared for the miracle in their midst.

What “firsts” may the future hold for you as your love for Mary’s firstborn grows?

About Yvonne Ghavalas

A minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, sharer of stories, sandwich enthusiast, seeker, and sometimes fool (archaic), sporadic blogger at

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