I turned around slightly to take a peek at Mary. I didn’t want her to realize how concerned I was for her. Days we have been traveling and the baby is almost ready. Many women in Nazareth die in childbirth. I think of my poor brother. His wife seemed fine, but as she slept the night after bringing her baby into the world, she suddenly bled to death. The baby fought for a week, but ultimately he, too, died. My brother lost his wife and firstborn son days apart. I think of Mary and little Jesus. I know this is God’s plan, but I don’t understand how. At least the other women had mothers, sisters, and neighbors around them. They were not alone. They were not traveling. Even in the best of circumstances, like my brother’s family, this can go terribly wrong. I am afraid we are headed for a disaster and though God has faith in me, I am doubtful.
My gaze must have hung too long on my new wife. She picked up her head and our eyes met. She was beautiful, but she was never to be mine. Not in that way. But I know that is okay. It is what God wants, but she is still my wife.
“Joseph,” she whispered, her eyes were pleading, “Do not worry about me. There is nothing for us to be afraid of. Look at you, instead. Your poor feet, and your back. Why don’t we stop so you can rest. Would you like the donkey? I don’t mind walking a while.”
“No, Mary. Please, no. Don’t worry about me” I said as I tried to straighten my aching back. I would love nothing more than to rest here, even sleep, but it was too dangerous. We couldn’t stop. There were bandits along the roads. We were not near any village. When her time came, there needed to be women, kindly women that could help bring the baby into the world. As much as I hated for her to have to push on, it was best she move while she could rather than get stuck here where there was no one for us and the baby.
“But Joseph,” she pleaded, “your feet are bleeding from those sandals. Surely a rest would be good for you…” My intelligent, wonderful wife did have a point. My back was bad enough, but my feet could get us into a problem if I didn’t take care of them.
“Just for a moment,” I said as I eased off the edge of the road a bit with the donkey. I walked towards Mary and lifted her waist and slid her down safely. I don’t know how she did it, after hours on the donkey and so pregnant with Jesus, but she gracefully edged towards the river, leading the donkey with her.
I removed my sandals and staggered like a drunkard towards the water. I plopped down, a little too hard, and began washing my feet. The dirt and dried blood that soiled them slowly trickled away with the current, but the cuts and bruises remained. I stole another glance at Mary as she sang to the donkey.
“I’m okay Joseph” she said. I don’t know how she saw me looking. I looked back down at my feet. I examined my toe nail of my large right toe. I tapped the end with my finger.
I sucked in quickly as I grimaced. That nail would be gone by this time tomorrow.
“He he he….” Mary giggled, “You needed this break more than I did.”
“Maybe so.” I didn’t want her to know I was hurting. Me feet ached, my back was killing me. The sun gave me a headache. My lips were cracked from so little water. I felt the stiffness in my hands. Too many hours clutching the donkey’s lead left my wrists and fingers tight. I wanted to just lay down right there and sleep, but I knew giving in would make starting again nearly impossible. I wanted to rest five minutes, but I gave in and rested what must have been ten. I searched our things to fill our canteen. I made sure Mary had plenty to drink. I was ready to go, but as I went to hoist her onto the donkey she stopped me.
“Joseph,” she whispered, “God chose you for a reason. We will be okay. All of us,” she said, rubbing her belly, “But that doesn’t mean you can forget to care for yourself.” She held tension in her face as she looked at me.
“I’ve drank, I’ve washed my feet and rested by back. I’m okay.” I tried to sound confident.
“I know you’re not going to like it, but just for a little bit, put our things on the donkey. I can walk. In fact, I would kind of enjoy it.”
“I’m okay.” She said, “Really.” She touched my arm and nodded then placed my satchel on the donkey’s back. Taking the rope, she looked at the donkey and made a kissing noise with her lips as she eased him forward.
“I will do that” I said, taking the rope, “Mary didn’t argue with that at all.” Perhaps she was right. She had been on the donkey for days now and while she was pregnant, she wasn’t technically ill. There was no reason she couldn’t walk and it would help my back to not have to carry anything.
We trudged onward. Hours passed. Occasionally we would pause to listen to a bird call. Mary would point out clouds that looked like animals. Different rocks adorned the trail and I would tell her how I made them into tools for my carpentry. Mostly, however, our hours were passed in silence. We were comfortable together and didn’t need to talk to communicate. This was God’s baby, not mine, but I did love Mary, in a pure and beautiful way and I did cherish this time with her. Away from the stares and gossip of Nazareth we could just be. There were no questions or accusations. We were just a man and his wife traveling. It seemed nothing but ordinary, but that was far from the truth.
“ooh” Mary said, stopping in her tracks. She wrapped her arms around her belly.
“What’s wrong?” I questioned, scared of all possible answers but desperate for the truth.
“I think we’re okay, but Jesus is coming soon.” Mary answered.
“How soon?” I said. Mary must have heard the fear in my voice.
“Not quite yet….we have time I think….How far since that last sign”. I think it said Bethlehem 8 miles. That was about 40 minutes ago.”
“Let’s get there tonight!”
“Mary, are you sure?”
“Yes, positive. We can do it. We need to do it.”
“Okay” I told her, let’s get you up….”
“No, I can’t get on the donkey now. I must walk. I just have to. I can’t explain it.”
I had not idea what to say. So I just nodded. Mary began moving forward and I followed. There was more urgency in her steps now. She no longer paused to hear the birds call. I didn’t waste my breath telling her about my work or pointing out things in the landscape. I quietly reminded myself that this was what God had wanted. He asked Mary. She said ‘yes’. His angel told me not to be afraid, but I was. I needed to be strong for her, but she was the strong one. I was powerless. My wife was having the child of God. There was no one around us. It was looking like I was going to deliver a baby, and not just any baby, but God’s baby. I was going to do it alone. I knew nothing about this. My father taught me how to safely cut wood. I knew how to hammer nails. I could construct tall structures and make uneven surfaces flat. I could create a house from nothing, but I was never told anything about how to deliver a baby. Nothing. And poor Mary, she had never given birth before. She was new to this herself, really. There was Elizabeth and John, just months ago, but I don’t know if that was enough. We were in for far more than we could handle. I tried to just put my trust in God, but it wasn’t always easy.
We worked our way up and down the hills along the rocky path. My feet no longer bothered me. I was reinvigorated. It was more fear than excitement, I must admit, but I was feeling a bit better. I was more alert and aware. I had to be.
“Look” Mary pointed at a sign.
“Bethlehem three miles”
“I can make that!” She said, proudly.
“You can?” I questioned.
“I can!” She sounded confident.
“You ca….wait, what is it?” I asked as her face changed suddenly, melting away her confidence.
I looked at Mary’s legs and the ground where she stood. My eye’s widened. I was terrified.
“It’s okay. Joseph, it’s okay. This is what happens. “It just means the baby is that much closer. Don’t be afraid. I remember from Elizabeth. There is still time, but we have to hurry.”
I stared at the wet ground. I didn’t know what to do. Mary inched towards me.
“Joseph, we can do this.” She said as she took my hand. I could tell by her voice that she too was afraid, but together we moved forward. As if he knew the situation, our stubborn donkey suddenly complied with everything we asked. He seemed to know, better than us, what was going to happen and now he was cooperating like never before. We hurried the rest of the way into town. I looked at Mary. She was hungry, thirsty, in occasional pain, and she was tired. We needed to find a place for Jesus to come.
“Mary, why don’t you sit here?” I motioned to a large stone on the edge of the street. “I can check on some places to stay. I won’t leave your sight.” She nodded as she took a deep breath, glancing at the houses that lined the busy street.
The sun was setting as I made my way from one door to the next. No one wanted visitors. All houses were full which was unusual for Hebrews. We were supposed to welcome strangers, but this was the census. I found an inn, but even the owners told me they were full. I looked at Mary down the street. She was watching me, but she didn’t know what the owners told me. I hated to disappoint her, but I didn’t know what else to do but go back to her and explain.
“I know Joseph. It will be okay. God has a plan.” she told me as I approached. I looked at my wife. I was still afraid, but a bit of her calm washed over me. She was right. God’s angel told me not to be afraid to take Mary as my wife. This child was God’s son. Surely whatever happened was as He planned it. Still, I was afraid. I scratched my head, peering down at my wife. She was so strong. I tried to remind myself it was not just her and I. It was us as well as Jesus, the Son of God. I still didn’t quite understand what that meant, but it was certainly a good thing. God was very much with us.
“Help me up.” She smiled as she reached up to me with both hands like a little child does. I grabbed her and slowly raised her up.
“I don’t…how about that direction” She pointed to the mountains where the sun was rapidly setting just behind them.”
I put my hand on her shoulder, trying to let her know she was not alone. I pulled the donkey along with my other hand. We creeped towards the end of the street. We would keep looking. I caught a glimpse of Mary, holding her belly and breathing deeply. This baby was coming. I tried to think but couldn’t find a solution.
“Shalom!” a boy jumped out in front of me.
“Hi!” exclaimed another.
“Hello?” I answered, unsure where they came from or what they wanted. I wasn’t afraid of them. They couldn’t have been more than eight or ten years old, but this was not the time for two little boys to suddenly take interest in us. They were the last thing I needed right now. Surely Mary was uncomfortable with little boys around her right as the baby came.
“What do you need?” the first boy looked at us eagerly.
“Grandma sent us here. She said you needed us.” the second boy joined in.
“What….I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“I’m Benjamin” The first boy smiled as he shifted the lamb on his shoulders, and this is Isaac, my little brother.”
“We’re the same age Benjamin!”
“Technically, he’s right” Benjamin began to explain. I was born right at Pentacost. The next year, a week before passover, Isaac was born. It is springtime so he is nine now. Soon it will be summer and I will be ten, but for now, we are the same age, but we’re not twins.”
“That’s great boys,” I said, less than amused. They seemed like happy little kids, but I didn’t have the time for them right now. “Why don’t you run along back to your grandma.”
“We can’t.” Isaac began. “We thought since the flocks were so close we could come into town and see the family, but it’s so busy here. Grandma said we can’t stay with her like we always do, but she told us about you. She wanted us to help.”
“Help, with what? I don’t even know who your Grandma is. You really can’t help us today, anyway.” I said as I guided Mary forwards, not wanting to waste anymore time with these boys.”
“Wait!” Isaac ran forward and pushed a basket in my arms. “Grandma said you looked hungry. She said that even though she has paying customers they won’t know the difference if she gives a little food to you. Grandpa told you no, but Grandma is in charge and she didn’t like what he did.”
“He he” Benjamin giggled. It was clear that Grandma was definitely in charge and the boys seemed to find that hilarious.
I peeked in the basket: baked fish, olives, figs, warm bread, and even a bit of cheese filled the basket. This was more food than we had eaten in days.
“Boys, thank you very much, but I can’t take this”
“Yes you can!” They both smiled. Grandma told us we had to give it to you and you had to take it no matter what.
“Yup!” Isaac giggled.
“She said we better not dare take any money from you, even if you offered.” Benjamin added.
“That’s very generous of you boys. Thank you so much.” Mary said. I think she was between contractions, based on the relative ease she had speaking and standing.
I didn’t know what to say or do. I felt I should give these two small boys money, but they seemed adamant that none was warranted. I wanted to show them kindness, but also felt that Mary needed privacy.
“Well boys, we need to go. My wife is about to have a baby and we need to find a place. Thank you so much for the food.” We began walking away, but suddenly I heard Isaac’s voice.
“Wait, Mister! I forgot! Here’s some wine, too!” Mary and I turned to see the little boy scramble towards us. In his belt were some wineskins. He pulled them off and pushed them into Mary’s hands.”
“I don’t think she can….” I started as Mary began to hush me. It amazed me how even in this state, she was calm and even joyous at these little boys. Quietly I took the skins from her and added them to the pack on the donkey’s back.
“Okay, bye!” The boys said, skipping off as quickly as they arrived. I thought that was the last of them.
We pressed onward, into the field. It was nearly dark when we sat down in the field.
“Joseph, I think this baby is coming in the pasture.” Mary said, more worried than she sounded all night.
“It’s okay, we’ll make it work” I told her, trying to convince myself. Mary looked into my eyes. She was scared now, I could tell. I felt like such a failure. There was nothing I could do for her. She lowered her eyes. They were fixed on something, but I didn’t know what.
“Mary, what is it?” I was alarmed. Perhaps burglars were coming. We had nothing but the animal and a little bit of food, but she was so vulnerable. Mary and Jesus were such an easy target to anyone up to mischief.
“It’s them! Hallelujah! It’s them!”
“Who, Mary? Who is it?”
“We’re back!” the boys shrieked. Before Mary could answer I felt a wave of relief that it was only our little friends, not bandits. Though relieved, the last thing I needed right now were two little boys on top of my laboring wife and a stubborn old donkey.
“Benjamin, Isaac” I pleaded, “You are great boys, but Mary needs privacy to have this baby and I can’t have you interrupting us. I really appreciate the food, but I need you to leave us alone.”
“I know. That’s what the man told us you would say, but he said to stay with you anyway.”
“What man? Your Grandpa?” I questioned.
“He came in the field. He said his name was Gabriel. He said God sent him.” Isaac reported, very confident in his answer.
I scrunched my brow, but Mary looked at me calmly.
“Joseph, God sent them. They are going to be with us tonight. We need them”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but my wife had a point. I looked at the two small boys. This time the lamb rested on Isaac’s shoulders. He supported it with one hand and held a torch in the other. Across his back was a bag full of things. What things – I couldn’t begin go guess. Then I looked at Benjamin, scarcely any older. Just an inch or two taller, he held a large jar full of water. He too had a pack on his back, full of an unknown number of things.
Gabriel told us to go towards the grove over there and we would find a place. At this point, I was so exhausted. I couldn’t argue with them. Mary seemed to have faith in them, and something about the name Gabriel just seemed providential. Quickly and quietly the four of us headed forward. I took the jug of water and torch from the boys. Our donkey followed without us leading him. Each boy grabbed one of Mary’s arms and we headed with haste to the grove a few hundred yards off. As we got closer, I saw it. A stable. There was fresh hay and a pit for a fire. There were some cows and oxen just outside of it. Chickens nestled in some hay on the ground nearby. It was full of life, but it was clean and private. It was not much, but it was the best I had seen all day.
“I feel another one!” Mary said as we were just paces from the stable.”
“It’s going to be okay, lady” Isaac said, “Before I could open my mouth.”
“Yup! Joseph here was number eleven for us.” Benjamin chimed in.
“Me and Joseph were your eleventh parents?” Mary said through her breaths. She was confused but also intrigued.
“No. She’s Joseph” Benjamin pointed to the lamb.
“She?” I said, a bit incredulous.
“That’a just what we do. We call all of them by Jacob’s son’s. The next one will be Benjamin, like me. It could be a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter. That’s just how we remember how many we’ve delivered”
“You’ve delivered eleven lambs?” I asked, a bit startled.
“Oh, no! way more than that! Joseph is eleven for this spring. We have ten or fifteen every spring! Joseph was just our new baby yesterday! She’s a girl, but we still just call her Joseph” The boys giggled at their silly cleverness.
“We’re shepherds. We stay out all year and watch the sheep and help them have their babies.”
“Sure do!” Both boys nodded exuberantly.
A lamb must be very different than a little boy, especially God’s son, but somehow that actually made me feel a little better. I had never done this before for an animal or person. Maybe these two little boys could do more for me than I thought. As I settled Mary onto the hay, the boys quickly set up the place, emptying their packs with cloths, and empty bowls. One boy even had a jar of olive oil and another of honey. I didn’t understand why it was with this and not their basket of food, but I didn’t question. Isaac collected some wood outside the stable. The grove had plenty of branches and he started a small fire in the pit. Mary held onto the little lamb. For some reason the fuzzy baby comforted her as she had contractions. At the time passed, I was amazed at the stable’s transformation. How could two little boys do this? I didn’t understand, but I really had no time to think about it.
“Isaac!” Benjamin quickly called. “Don’t do that!”
“Why? She needs to be checked” I turned to look at the boy who was lifting my wife’s robes. My jaw dropped. I started to get angry.
“Joseph, it’s okay” Mary whispered. “They are boys trying to help.”
I realized this was not indecency. Men never do this, but tonight was not an ordinary night. Jesus was not an ordinary baby. Rules were going to be broken.
Benjamin walked over to the three of us and looked at Mary in the eye.
“Mary” I interruped softly.
“Mary,” Benjamin repeated, “We need to look at you and feel you. I don’t want to scare your or hurt you, but I don’t think I can get my Grandma or my any of my aunts. My mommy died with Isaac, so she can’t come, either.” I swallowed, trying not to think about Mary dying as these poor boys’ mother did. “We do this all the time, but with animals, not people. Is it okay if me and my brother and Joseph the man, not Joseph the lamb, to look at you and touch you.”
Mary bit her lip and nodded. I could tell this was very uncomfortable for her, but she knew it was what needed to happen. The boys lifted up her robes and looked at my wife. My poor wife. I tried to look away, but I needed to see, too. Between her legs on the hay was some blood. I was horrified.
“No, no, no” Isaac looked at me, “That’s okay. That’s normal. It’s not a lot. Come here, let”s get this water” we crawled a few feet away to the fire where clay pots sat nearby warming water. I watched as the boy got some rags and wet them. I did the same and we each began cleaning my wife from the waste to the toes.
Mary started panting. I could tell another contraction was coming. Benjamin whispered to her so quietly I couldn’t hear, but then he put his hands on her stomach and felt the muscles. I never thought, in all this time, to feel that. I was amazed and realized how foolish I was for not wanting these two boys with me.
“Go over there” Isaac whispered. “Go on, he waved me forward”. I crawled next to her and held her hand.
“Joseph…he’s almost here. Jesus is almost here!” I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and kissed her head. My beautiful wife. I couldn’t have her the way other men did, but I still loved her. She was pure and amazing. I don’t know how she had this strength, but I wanted nothing more than to help her and support her. She deserved so much more than this little barn. But then again, these boys were doing far better than what I have heard of in some childbirths, so perhaps this was the best.
“Mary, why don’t you eat?” I nudged. She needed her strength. We had barely eaten in days and now was not the time for fasting. I pushed the basket closer to her and she ripped a piece of bread off. Before she began to nibble, she quietly brought the bread to her face, smiled and closer her eyes. She was praising the lord and thanking him for this gift. Then, she took the bread and began to nibble
“I’ll heat those” Isaac said as he speared the fish on a sharpened stick he produced from somewhere in his sack. He warmed the fish on the fire before giving them back to Mary. I was amazed how these young boys seemed to have thought of everything. If it were up to me, my poor wife would be laying in the dirt of a dark field, hungry, cold, and filthy, but these boys provided everything. How they did it was a mystery, but I didn’t question God. I just let it happen. Mary handed me some fish and bread. I didn’t know if I should, but I realized there was plenty and I was hungry. I quietly prayed to God. I asked him bless my food, protect my wife and his son, Jesus, and I thanked him for Benjamin and Isaac.
A contraction came again. They must have been getting stronger because Mary put up more of a fight with them. She squeezed my hand and I just watched her. I didn’t know what to say.
“What are you doing?” I asked Benjamin as he pushed all across my wife’s belly.
“Oh, he’s just feeling for the head. It should be at the bottom. I came butt first. That’s why mama died.” Isaac answered.
“Shh, Isaac” Benjamin warned. None of us wanted to think about Mary having a problem like that.
“It’s okay. Feel it, Joseph” the boy said, grabbing my hand and placing it low on my wife’s belly. I felt a hard, rounded object, similar to a rock. “That’s the head. Grandma always feels for a head on Rachel and Hannah when their time gets close. That’s how I know.”
I took his word for it. He sure did know a lot for a boy that lived out in the fields.
“You should check between her legs.” Isaac chirped as he pulled my wife’s robes back. All sense of decency was gone. I looked at Benjamin.
“Better you than us….here, clean your hand with some wine and put it in and feel the head to see how close the baby is.”
I couldn’t believe what I was doing. I looked at Mary.
“Joseph, it’s okay. They know what they are doing. I did it for Elizabeth, it’s okay.”
I looked at my virgin wife and then washed my hands with wine as the boys said. I placed my hand inside her and felt the head. It felt close and it did feel like a head. For the first time, I was confident that the boys were right and there was indeed a head first. That was great news. I pulled my hand out and looked at, covered in mess. I tried to hide my disgust. Isaac got a wet cloth and washed away the mess with warm water.
“Why not the wine?” I asked thinking it would clean it more.
“We only have so much. She can’t hurt us, but we could hurt her or the baby so we use that for them, but not to clean ourselves up.” I guess that made sense.
Another contraction came and Mary just didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Not holding the lamb or squeezing my hand could ease it. She turned over and laid her elbows and knees on the tough ground. Her bare bottom was exposed for all of us to see.
“Mary….” I hesitated.
“I know Joseph, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s just the four of us here. There’s no surprises. I am done with it.”
“Okay” I stammered, horrified it had come to this.
“Actually, it gets kind of messy. Why don’t we take your robes off and we’ll cover you with some cloths.” Benjamin suggested.
I was horrified as my wife stripped all her clothes, but the boys covered her with lots of cloths they pulled out of their sacks. I guess it was better to not get her robes covered in the baby’s waters.
She closed her mouth in order not to scream as she felt another contraction. As it eased, she told us her back felt better. I had not idea that in all of this, it could be her back that bothered her, but then again, what did I know about birthing babies?
After a few more contractions Mary got back on her bottom and rested her back against the hay bale. The boys carefully rearranged the cloth to cover her up to keep her as decently as possible. They didn’t stare or laugh. I don’t know if they were just on their best behavior or too young to fully grasp the strangeness of the situation.
Isaac peeked under the wool cloth between my wife’s legs.
“It’s bulging!” he shrieked with excitement. “I bet it’s a girl. We can name her Benjamin!”
“Benjamin!” I laughed. It’s a boy and his name is Jesus. Your brother is great, but this baby is named Jesus.
“No, not for him, because it is baby number twelve!”
“Oh, yes, that’s right,” I murmured as I stole a glance at the little lamb they named Joseph. Mary held the lamb closely to her, stroking its nose gently.
“He’s here!” She said suddenly as she sat up a little. We saw the top of a head coming out between her legs.
“Ooh, Joseph, push her there!”
“What?” I looked at Isaac.
“So she doesn’t tear too much, hold her skin back as the head slides out.”
Were they serious? Now was not the time for a joke.
“Joseph! He’s here! Do something!”
I took a deep breath as I held my hands against Mary. The baby’s head came out. There was Jesus. I thought I was about to cry as I gently grasped the head.
“Come on Mary!” Chanted Isaac.
“You can do it, PUSH!” urged Benjamin
Quickly the baby came out the rest of the way as Mary let out a huge breath.
Isaac tapped the baby slightly and he began to cry. I looked at the little boy. He was beautiful. He was covered in a mess. His hands and feet were blue, and he cried like he was uncomfortable, but despite it all, he was beautiful. Mary had done it. She gave birth to the Son of God and God’s baby was beautiful.
Isaac came and brought me cloths dampened with warm water. He cleaned up Jesus while Benjamin talked to Mary still focused between her legs.
“What are you doing Benjamin?”
“There’s the sack thing. It comes out after. It needs to come out.”
“What?” I don’t know how they knew so much, but I guess lambs aren’t that much different than people.
“I don’t know how long it will take for a person, but it’s usually just a few minutes after” He said as we helped Mary. He gently asked her to push as I brought the baby to her. We sat there, the three of us. No longer a couple, but a family, nestled in a barn. The hay was wet and Mary was nearly naked. I was scared and confused, but it was all going to be okay, just as the angel said it would be when he told me to not be afraid to take her as my wife and raise this baby, the Son of God.
The boys pulled out the sack and took some water and cleaned up Mary. Benjamin secured the cord by Jesus a couple of times with a strip of leather and the boys took some shearers and cut the cord between the baby and the sack. My poor wife seemed to have torn a little, but they put some olive oil on her cuts, too. I didn’t want them to touch her, but Mary insisted that it was really okay. They were just boys and this was what was done. I felt better and relaxed a little. The boys tidied up the area as Mary nursed Jesus at her breast. A little while later, the applied some honey to her, because the boys kept claiming it helped her heal and would keep it from getting infected. I didn’t know what to say, but Mary seemed fine with it and I didn’t see how it could hurt.
After a while, I edged over a small manger for the baby. I could tell Mary could barely stay awake any longer.
“Wait, Joseph, here” Isaac said as he pulled some fleece and cloth out of his bag. He gently laid the fleece out over the scratchy hay as I swaddled the baby and placed him in his makeshift crib. I wrapped my arm around my wife and watched her drift to sleep. The boys also rested in the corner of the stable, a little away from us. I was not going to chase them off. Not after all they did. It amazed me that two small boys knew so much and had so many things. They even pointed us to this stable. How they did it, I don’t know.
I looked at the growing group. Hours ago it was just Mary and I. Benjamin and Isaac came along, and then of course there was Jesus. The five of us rested, but as they napped, I just thought of it all. How did we do this? Why Bethlehem? What does it mean Jesus is the Son of God? Why the Census, now, of all times? What happens now? Is the birth the worse of it for Mary? Are we safe here for at least a few days? How do I raise the son of God? Questions swirled in my head. I felt more at peace than I had all day, but I still couldn’t feel totally at ease.
The fire died down a little and the owls hooted in the distance. I looked at Mary and Jesus. Even the donkey and little lamb, nestled against Mary’s legs, were still. I quietly got up and collected a little more wood for our fire. As I added it to the pit, I saw some men approaching in the distance. My heart sank. What could this be? I was terrified.
“Boys, Boys” I whispered, “Get up!” The groggy boys looked at me. They were reluctant, but they did as I asked with little complaint.
“What’s wrong?” Isaac yawned.
“There are people coming.” I pointed as I walked towards Mary and rubbed her shoulder, rousing her from her nap. “Wake up, sweetheart”
Even the lamb stirred as I picked up Jesus from his manger and cradled him in my arms. I didn’t know what to do.
“It’s okay”, Benjamin muttered. “It’s just the other shepherds. I guess they are looking for us.” The boys scrambled to put a few items into a sack. “You should keep the rest,” Isaac said as he looked at the bowls of water and extra cloths. Even the leftover bread remained here for us. It was as if they wanted to make sure we had everything possible. The men got closer and before the boys were done, they came to our little stable.
“Boaz!” Isaac shouted with joy, waking the baby.
“Hey there, Buddy!” a man about my age said to Isaac. “Looks like you were busy tonight.” He said smiling at the baby.
“Yup! number twelve this season!”
“Hahaha!” He chuckled. “I don’t know about that, buddy!” This is no lamb, this is a child of God.
“What do you mean?” Benjamin questioned, furrowing his brow.
“Well….” Boaz began, “It’s amazing really. We were just out in the fields and then suddenly there was a flash – it was an angel, an angel of God. He told us there was a baby lying in a manger. This baby here. He said this baby came to save all the people. This child,” Boaz gestured toward Jesus, “Is Christ the Lord.”
“Whoa!” the boys said in unison. The other shepherds nodded and smiled as they crept closer.
“Come, come in” I said and I handed the baby to Mary. I thanked the Lord she was covered decently, but the boys were one step ahead of me, laying another cloth over her. The donkey stepped aside letting the men in the stable and even the little lamb seemed to take notice. The other oxen and cows that had laid outside the stable all evening seemed to watch us from outside as the shepherds came in. They admired the baby and softly spoke to him. Some closed their eyes in prayer and laid a hand on his head before letting another come up. One even laid prostrate as he looked at my foster son in awe.
Boaz looked at the boys.
“Well boys, you see that baby you helped deliver?” Boaz pointed at Jesus “He will deliver us. He is the lamb of God.”