When I was an undergraduate, to help pay for my college expenses, I worked as a surgical technician in a hospital in Salt Lake City. I had on-the-job training, which amounted to scrubbing with phisohex, donning a surgical cap, mask and gown, learning to stuff my hands into latex gloves, and observing a number of operations. Soon I was assisting at an operation table under the guidance of a surgical nurse, learning the names of the various surgical instruments, and handing instruments to the surgeon.


A whole new world had opened up for me. I assisted at a number of operations, but the one I remember most clearly was a Caesarean section. The anesthesiologist had given the mother a local, a saddle block, if I remember correctly, so she was awake during the procedure. A large circular mirror had been moved in overhead, so she could watch what the doctor was doing. 


An incision was made, and there was a call for a number of hemostats. It didn’t take long for the baby to appear and to be handed to the anesthesiologist, who used a suction bulb to get the baby breathing and crying. No holding the baby upside down and smacking it on the bottom. I was also surprised that the baby was covered with a grayish grease, which was being carefully wiped off. The baby was then laid in the mother’s arms while the mother’s incision was being closed. I will never forget the joy in the mother’s face.


This birth reminds me of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus being birthed in a stable. Yes, there were angels, and wise men, and shepherds, and we have our children put on these wonderful pageants for us…but there was also a real, flesh and blood birth that took place in Bethlehem. Mary greeted with joy her new baby from God, the Word enfleshed in human form. We call this the Incarnation. With the birth of Jesus, God was no longer in some distant place, but God, the Word, had come to live among us. Our relationship with God had been permanently altered. He was not only God-with-us, but his final goal was and is to be incarnated in each of us, to become God-within-us. But we humans don’t take to incarnation easily or well, and Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross, and be resurrected before we could begin to welcome him as a presence within.