Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Lord's First Supper

In this morning's sermon, my husband painted such a vivid word picture of Jesus' birth. He drew us back to Bethlehem where a very young woman, exhausted from the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was experiencing the sharp pangs of labor. Her husband knew that this was no ordinary baby who was about to be born. He was still amazed at the words of the angel who had told him that Mary was carrying the Son of God.

As they searched for a place to stay, Joseph may have wondered why in the world God hadn't made things a little easier for them. Unable to even find a room in an inn, they ended up being lodged in the stable. Mary was just thankful for a place to finally rest as she entered the transition phase of labor and felt the urge to push. Surely she longed to have her mother or aunt at her side, but Scripture doesn't even record the presence of a midwife. With just Joseph to help her, the Bible says "Mary brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes."
Mary lovingly breastfed Jesus. 

Mary gazed in awe at her newborn son as he took his first meal at her breast. The afterbirth pains intensified a bit, ensuring that her uterus would begin the process of returning to its normal size, and she wouldn't hemorrhage. Perhaps she dozed a bit on the straw in the stable. Though it would have been common for an infant to sleep with his mother, there may not have been a suitable place for them to sleep, so after feeding her sweet new baby, she placed the peacefully sleeping infant in the only safe place they could find, the feeding trough for the animals. 

The Bible records the Lord's Last Supper in the upper room with his disciples. However, nothing is written about his first supper. What a precious moment that must have been for both mother and child. She was holding the incarnate God, the promised Messiah in her arms, giving him warmth, comfort and nourishment from her breast. It was the first of many such moments that Mary would share with her baby Jesus. A host of artists have sought to depict the precious bond that existed between the infant Savior and his mother. Pictures from the Renaissance typically depict a chubby, happy baby contentedly feeding at his mother’s breast. Often in these pictures both mother and child have a halo, or angels hover around them. Certainly there is no Biblical basis for the halo, and it is doubtful that angels flew around every time Jesus nursed. Nevertheless, the artists did get one very important thing right: Jesus was lovingly and tenderly breastfed by his mother.

In the Roman world of that time breastmilk substitutes made and marketed by large pharmaceutical firms obviously did not exist. So Mary didn’t have much choice. However, Mary didn’t just breastfeed Jesus for lack of a better alternative. To Mary’s Jewish mind, nurturing her infant at her breast was part of God’s wonderful design for mothers and babies – a design that has not changed in the 2000 years since Jesus walked on this earth. So this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let's take just a moment to think about the Lord's First Supper and thank God for the gift of breastfeeding.


  1. What a beautiful picture of what Mary must have felt as she cared for baby Jesus. My first was born on Christmas and it was such an amazing day to give birth because it gave me such a reminder of the realness of Jesus. Thank you for writing!

  2. Stephanie, that must have been so precious for you! Thanks for your comment!