River Bennett & Bel Pangburn - birth photographers at 'The First Hello' - reflect on being present to the wonder of the night when Jesus was born.

The account of Jesus’ birth given to us in Luke 2:8-20 is a fairly ‘bare bones’ account. All the glorious facts of the Christ being born are written and accounted for. Yet we are birth photographers. So when we read this birth narrative, we can’t help but feel all the intensity that we know would have been in the room that day.

Becoming a parent is one of the most significant days of a person’s life. Being a birth photographer we have the privilege to be part of this intimate and life-changing moment. Our job is to be fully present and attentive in order to capture the minute details that can easily be forgotten in all the emotion. Like the tender touch between a man and a woman as they journey through labour. Or the moment a new baby that’s crying while being weighed on the scales, calms at the sound of their father’s familiar voice.


This is no place to be semi-present. This task requires our full attention. We aren’t capturing cute, posed family photos here. We can’t be casually scrolling through our Facebook feeds at such moments, or taking the occasional iPhone snap. We are - we have to be - completely and utterly present.

A birthing room is always filled with energy as a new life emerges, but even post birth, the atmosphere is charged. Grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends gather to say their ‘first hello’ to the new baby. The room swells with that pure joy that very few other earthly experiences can generate. There are often tears, and those tears can be streaming down the faces of those who rarely cry.


We feel incredibly blessed to witness all this wonder.

And now, reflecting on the account of Jesus’ birth given to us in Luke 2:8-20, we can’t help but think about how much more magnificent it would have been to be present when ‘the first hellos’ were given to the newborn baby Jesus - the Saviour of the world in tiny human form. To capture the minute details that may otherwise be unnoticed. To witness one of the shepherds, a complete stranger supernaturally drawn into an unexpected moment, directed by angelic chorus to an event that would change all of history.

And what a moment it was! God incarnate. The Saviour of the world confined to the fragility of a newborn baby’s flesh. With every birth we capture we are struck by the potential that is within every tiny newborn frame.

But the baby lying in that feeding trough, on that Bethlehem night, was heralded the History-Maker. Jesus was the long awaited Anointed One, The Liberator. And yet he was framed in utter vulnerability, as a newborn, so tiny and helpless. The scene He was born into was a poor stable. This was no room in the local hospital, just a birthing room made in amongst hay and cattle, with a feeding trough repurposed as a crib.

This really was, as Bono once so eloquently articulated, “the poetic genius of a Creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in straw poverty”.

Equally striking was Mary’s response to the events of the birth of her son, with Scripture recording in verse 19, that she  “treasured” the details, and “pondered” them in her heart.

Here’s a virgin girl who has just given birth to God incarnate. And she’s done so in a strange town that she’s forced to be in by Roman leaders who are oppressing her people. And there’s no space for her, so she’s given birth in a stable. In. A. Stable. And now the room is filled with shepherds she doesn’t know who’ve been directed to come by a sky filled with choirs of angels!

And yet even this bare-bones Biblical account records Mary as being present to the details, tucking them away in her heart to think on later. It’s truly stunning.

So here we are at Advent.

Two birth photographers who started a business called ‘The First Hello’, which is all about being present to every detail involved in a new life coming into the world.

We are journeying alongside all of you towards the celebration of our Saviour’s birth this Christmas time. And we too are desiring to be fully present with Jesus and with our own loved ones. We are wanting to make space to include those who are unknown to us - the shepherds of our worlds – as the Holy Spirit draws them to come and meet Jesus.

And amidst all of that, we are praying that none of us would lose the wonder of that birth that took place over 2000 years ago. That we would all be like Mary, and find ourselves present enough to treasure the wondrous details of Christmas, and ponder them in our hearts.

Bel Pangburn and River Bennett are Founders & Birth Photographers at The First Hello.

Daily Reading Luke 2:8-20

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

An Advent series on "Being Present"