The First Christmas [part four]

There were paths leading from both sides of the inn down the side of the cliff. In front, as on the bow of a big ship, there was the entrance to the cave, which had been carved out a long time ago. Joseph paused to light his small lamp, then led the donkey inside. He turned to look at Mary, and saw she was in deep fatigue.087

The chalk of the road had powdered her face. She removed her veil, shook out her hair, and slid down off the animal. Her bones ached.

Joseph apologized. he said that he was sorry that there was no room for her, but she could see the crowds of people. He was ashamed he failed her in this hour. Mary studied her husband. She brought a tender smile to her face. He had not failed her; he had been good and tender and lawful..He hung his head and listened.

If it is the will of God, she said that His son should be born in a place like this, she would not question the wisdom of it. At the age of fifteen, she would undergo this trial alone, just as, some years later, her son would undergo his trial alone.

The animals watched in glistening-eyed silence, their breaths making small gray plumes in the gloom. She asked Joseph to build a fire, and fetch water from the goatskin. He collected clean straw and arranged the straw as a bed and placed his cloak over it. When the water was hot, he filled a jar, and brought it to Mary with some cloths. He asked her to name what he could do. She said to go outside and remain until she called him.

The fire outside burned brightly ..Joseph sat beside it, heating the water and praying.

No one came down from the inn to ask how the young woman felt.

Joseph had run out of prayers and promises. His face was sick, his eyes listless. He looked up toward the east, and his dark eyes mirrored a strange thing; three stars, coming over the mountains, were fused into one tremendously bright one. he wondered about it and was vaguely troubled by it when he heard a tiny, thin wail, a sound so slender that one had to listen again to make sure.

He wanted to rush inside at once. She would call him….. “Joseph.” It was a soft call, but he heard it. The first thing he noticed was his wife. Mary was sitting with her back against the manger wall. Her face clean; her hair brushed. She beckoned him closer. Joseph, mouth agape followed her to the little manger. In it were bolts of swaddling she had brought on the trip.

There, among the cloths, he saw the tiny red face of an infant. This , said Joseph to himself, is the one of whom the angel spoke. He dropped to his knees..This was the Messiah.

[Jim Bishop]   continued tomorrow…


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