Guest / Limited Access /

This Christmas, many of us will strive once again to reflect on the significance of the Incarnation. We will try to remember, amid the usual busyness, the strange wonder of God coming to earth as a baby, of an unwed teenager carrying God-in-the-flesh in her flesh.

If it is remarkable that an ordinary woman carried our Savior in her body, it is equally so that she nourished him with that same body—specifically with her breasts.

Our world looks so different from first-century Palestine. Today an unmarried pregnant woman does not fear the public embarrassment that Joseph spared Mary, and a baby would be born in a stable only in an absolute emergency. If he had followed the customs of the time, Joseph wouldn't have attended Jesus' birth. Yet for all the ways modern Western culture seem brazenly relaxed compared with the culture of Jesus' time, there is one act we're more squeamish about, especially in our worship spaces.

Early this year, a Georgia woman claimed she was kicked out of worship for breast-feeding her infant. I know a bit of what she must have felt: On a family trip to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, as I started to breast-feed my son in the sanctuary, I was whisked away by a security guard to the bathroom. Countless other Christian women, trying to feed their children without having to miss a sermon, have faced the disapproval of others who think breasts have no place in the sanctuary.

How widespread the no-breast-feeding rule is in U.S. churches is hard to say. But one thing's clear: Our squeamishness over breast-feeding has little precedent in the church. Instead, Christians have long celebrated this aspect of Jesus' early life. Church father Ephrem the Syrian ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueState-Sponsored Pilgrimages Under Review in Nigeria
Subscriber Access Only
State-Sponsored Pilgrimages Under Review in Nigeria
A third of the country's 90,000 religious pilgrims this year were Christians.
RecommendedPatricia Heaton: My Career Floundered, Then Flourished Because of Faith
Patricia Heaton: My Career Floundered, Then Flourished Because of Faith
Q+A: The star of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ and ‘The Middle’ reveals the prayer that changed her life.
TrendingThe Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner
What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future.
Editor's PickThe Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
It begins by recognizing the name above every name.
Christianity Today
Breast-feeding in the Back Pew
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.