“Perhaps I should go on ahead and see if I may find help.” Joseph looked worriedly toward his wife and then back toward Bethlehem.
“No!” Mary’s sharp reply grabbed Joseph’s attention. “Please do not leave me here alone. It is only a little distance more – I will make it.”
It was near midnight by the time they arrived in the city. They were at a snail’s pace as Mary was forced to stop and deal with her labor pains every hundred steps or so. Joseph did not know the location of his relative’s home and was about to begin randomly knocking on doors when he saw two figures approach him in the gloom. Even as they came toward him Mary bent over and rested her hands on her knees as the labor pains came upon her again.
“Are you in need, brother?”
It was the first man, an old man, who spoke. His son or perhaps a grandson, stood a pace or two behind him.
“I am a traveler here for the Emperor’s enrollment with my wife” Joseph replied. “I have relatives in the village – but I do not know where they live – and my wife – ” Just then Mary drew a sharp breath – “My wife is with child and ready to give birth. Perhaps – “
“We will find room for you if only in the stable. It will provide the privacy you need – and I will summon the midwife. You can locate your relatives in the morning but it is clear that your wife must find a resting place now.”
The old man turned toward his son.
“Perez, is there room in the stable?” He gestured toward the travelers.
“I think that there is room for one more donkey.”
“And for the man and his wife?”
The boy hesitated a moment. “Yes, I think that there is room.”
“Then show them the way.”
The walk to the stable cave seemed to last a lifetime for Joseph. Mary’s labor pains were coming more quickly and with much more force. He was glad that he had not argued with the old man over the wisdom of sheltering a woman about to give birth in a stable.
They finally arrived at the stable cave and Joseph did what he could to prepare a clean and comfortable resting place for Mary. The midwife arrived not long after the boy had left and Joseph stepped outside the stable to catch his breath. He passed a hand over his brow and sighed deeply. The past several months had been very difficult for him and his wife. Yet he was certain that God’s hand was upon them.
All at once Joseph heard the sound of a thundering voice somewhere in the hills outside Bethlehem. He saw a brilliant flash of light that lingered on the horizon and then he heard many voices in glorious praise to God. He heard a baby cry.
Joseph spun on his heel and stepped back into the stable. Mary’s face was radiant and in her arms she held a small bundle, a baby with a red face and a mop of dark curly hair. After the midwife had cleaned the baby and rubbed him with salt, Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths and nursed the infant. Then, so that Mary could clean up and rest, Joseph filled a feeding trough with fresh hay and used a thick soft blanket to make a cradle for the sleeping baby.
Moments after he had placed the child in the manger, he heard the sound of running feet. Suddenly a group of shepherds moved into the circle of light cast by the single lamp. They fell to their knees before the baby in the manger. Joseph could see the innkeeper’s son kneeling just behind them. He heard the shepherds speak of God’s glory. He heard them talk of angels. He heard them speak praise to God – and he found himself repeating it as well.
“Praise God, the Messiah has come.”
(This is an excerpt from just one of the stories found in, The Christmas Season: Stories For Each Week Of Advent And Christmas Eve , available at Amazon.com)