They Rocked the Cradle that Rocked the World ~ chap. 4

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4–JOSEPH II

WALKING TALL

  • BC 6
  • Nazareth, Province of Galilee, Palestine

 There is a wedding in the little town of Nazareth in a couple of weeks. It isn’t the kind they’d planned. Mary is now four months pregnant.

The neighbors don’t come. They do not understand. Instead, they gossip. People think Joseph is crazy for marrying a girl who obviously got pregnant while on vacation with her cousin.

A few trusted relatives come. But they, too, don’t understand. Cousins Elizabeth and Zechariah were invited, of course, but little John is so tiny. They dare not travel with a baby that young.

Besides, an old couple with a baby might attract too much attention. People would probably hound the old parents as they travel from town to town on their way across the country. “She couldn’t be a day under seventy,” they’d declare. Then they’d start treating them like freaks. Then the physicians would converge on them. They’d want to analyze Elizabeth’s reproductive system. Zechariah’s too. No, a trip away from home would be out of the question. Mary’s family has received their regrets.

There are no exciting feasts for Mary, no bridegroom parades for Joseph, no running through the streets on their way to the bride’s house. But there is, indeed, a wedding. And a little reception.

It is a quiet occasion. Mary is obviously pregnant. Everyone is obviously embarrassed, but they’ve loved Mary all her life. She and her parents try to explain it, but no one seems to understand. Actually, they don’t understand themselves very well.

Nevertheless, Mary and Joseph the carpenter are nervously and happily whisked off to wedded bliss. Then they settle down to wait for God’s and Mary’s child.

They move into Joseph’s little home. It only has a courtyard and one room. Mary has trouble finding spots to store things. So she has to go to the market more often than usual.

Joseph insists on going with her. He will not allow his bride to endure people’s malicious remarks alone in the market or on the streets. Insensitive things like, “He’s sure not going to look like Joseph.” Callous things like, “Hey, babe! You available tonight?” Heartless, stabbing, unbearable things like, “There goes the whore.”

When the taunts come, Joseph whispers, “Don’t listen to them. They don’t understand.” When the jeers come, Joseph encourages, “This is God’s baby. Some day they will worship him.” When the hurts come, Joseph spurs her on, “Smile, Mary. Be proud. Walk tall.”

_____

Mary is now six months pregnant.

There is a knock on their gate. Joseph opens it and sees Mary’s now feeble grandmother and her father holding several long, narrow boards.

“I don’t use this old loom any more. I’ll bet Mary can,” her grandmother, Eve, explains while leading her son-in-law, Heli, to the courtyard.

Mary hears and recognizes the voices from inside their one room, her home, and comes out smiling broadly.

“Welcome to our humble home,” Mary announces.

“Where do you want me to put this loom, Joseph?” Heli asks.

“Mary, what would be most convenient for you? Would it be best by the door?” Joseph asks. It’s the farthest away from all my sawdust.”

“That would be perfect. That way I can store my distaff and spindle just inside the doorway out of the rain. Let me bring you two a goblet of juice.

“That’s okay, sweetie. We’ll only be here a few moments. Then we’ll be out of your hair. Joseph has better things to do than talk to crotchety old people,” her grandmother says with a smile.

Heli immediately gets to work putting the loom back together and Joseph goes back to work.

Grandmother Eve sits down on a bench. “As I said, it’s old, but good. I inherited it from my mother. She would be proud for you to have it.”

Mary looks at her grandmother with shimmering eyes. Sometimes the tears aren’t very far away. She says nothing.

“Oh, sweet Mary. How are things going for you? Are the people around the market treating you okay?” her grandmother asks, sensing what life for Mary must be like.

“Yes, I guess so,” she replies.

“Come to your grandmother, sweetie. Let me put my arms around you a moment like I used to do when you were a little girl.”

A quiet moment. A moment when two souls unite in heart. In faith.”

“Oh, God of our fathers”, Grandmother Eve prays. “Mary has taken on such a great burden. But she loves you with her whole heart. Help Mary be strong.”

Another moment. Then Mary pulls away from her grandmother. She is smiling. She takes a deep breath.

“I could certainly use that loom. We just go to the market to buy food, but not fabric or anything else.”

“I remember getting this loom from my mother. Oh, my! I made thread and fabric for my new husband’s—your grandfather’s—clothes. And I made a beautiful tapestry for our little house. Yes, we started out in a little house too—about the size of yours.”

The next day, Mary goes back to her childhood home.

“Mother, would you teach me to spin wool one more time with the distaff and spindle? Cotton too? I think I can do it this time. And could you give me some bolls of cotton? Joseph’s business is just getting off the ground and…”

Grandmother Eve is down taking a nap. She takes many naps these days.

By the time her mother’s lesson is over, Grandmother Eve walks out of her bedroom. “I thought I heard your voice, Mary. Here is some flax yarn so you can make a special linen shawl for yourself. I had a great aunt whose husband was in the business. Normally took him three weeks to convert the fibers out of one batch of straw into yarn.

Mary leaves her bench and sets her thread-making distaff and spindle on it. “Oh, I couldn’t take that, Grandmother. It’s too precious.”

“I have saved it all these years for something special, Mary, and your situation is as special as I will ever see. Take it, child. With my blessing.”

One by one Mary throws away the dingy covers Joseph had used for bedding and makes new ones out of wool Joseph buys for her at the market. For their little room she makes a small tapestry to decorate the wall, just as her grandmother had done in her youth.

She goes through Joseph’s clothes and mends them. What she can’t mend she tells Joseph to use as shop rags.

Before long, using the cotton her mother had given her, Mary is making spans and spans of swaddling bands and baby blankets. For their baby. The baby that belongs to the three of them—Mary, Joseph and God.

Each night she and Joseph pray for God’s baby. But that is as intimate as they get. There must never be any doubt whose baby it is. She must remain a virgin. She just prays that her delivery will not be harder than it is for other women.

Sometimes during the night she hears Joseph out in the courtyard working by moonlight. Cutting and pounding. Cutting and pounding.

_____

Mary is now eight months pregnant.

Early one evening a clay brick comes hurling over the wall of the courtyard.

Joseph hurries toward the gate to find out what has caused the noise. He sees the brick, picks it up, and realizes something is etched on it. He shines his lamp on it.

“And you call yourself a Jew!” is scratched into it. Under that, the star of David.

Booing outside the wall. Then rushing footsteps that soon disappear.

Joseph clenches his teeth, looks up into the heavens, then returns to their room. Mary is humming a song and looking over some of her handiwork.

“What was it?”

No reply.

“Come on,” she prods, “what was it?”

No reply. She looks up, puts down the little blanket, rises and steps over to her protective husband. Then she sees it. The anger in Joseph’s glare, veins sticking out in his neck, and his lips flattened together. She has not seen that look very often in Joseph, but she sees it now. It frightens her.

“What’s going on? Did something fall and break?”

Nothing. Instead, Joseph’s face distorts until his nostrils are flaring and his teeth gritting. He has never been this angry.

He bangs his fist on the closed door to their room.

“Why can’t I protect you better?”

He leans his head on the door while his chest heaves around his racing heart.

Mary draws closer, he turns and looks at her. She puts both hands up to his cheeks and turns his head so she can look into his eyes.

“Joseph, what was it? You’ve got to tell me.”

He says nothing.

She backs up and looks at him again. This time she sees he is holding something behind his back.

“What is it? Please show me, Joseph.”

Slowly, he brings his hand out in front and she sees the brick. She takes it, though he does not give it up easily. And reads it.

The brick falls out of her hand and to the floor. Mary leans her head on his chest.

Protectively, he puts his arms around her.

Silence.

Mary takes a deep breath. Now trembling, a tear slips down her cheek for them both.

“Oh, Joseph, I’m so sorry I brought all this on you.”

“Don’t ever say that, Mary,” he whispers. “God has given us an assignment. We will see it through. Somehow we will see it through. Even if the whole village turns against us. Even the whole world.”

Silence once more. Clinging tighter. Loving deeper. Trusting greater. Then her audible sobs. They mingle with his inaudible anger.

Sighs.

Moments later, Joseph turns Mary so she is beside him, and walks with her to a bench. They sit. He pulls her over to him once more. Her sobbing softens into whimpers.

“Oh, Jehovah God. Don’t let this happen to Mary. I can take it. But Mary. She’s too sensitive. Don’t make her go through this. Give her strength.” He pauses. “What’s going on, Jehovah God? Things don’t make sense right now.” His voice is cracking. It is not supposed to.

Joseph trembles, trying to maintain his masculine control. A few betraying teardrops make their way slowly down his cheek and onto her shiny black hair.

Quiet. Wondering. God leans low. He whispers to them. They cannot hear. But they sense it.

“Something in the scriptures. Something. Where is it?” Joseph, the typical man, the typical fixer, must find some way to solve their problem.

He gently pulls Mary from him, she shifts, then lays her head down on the bench where he has just placed a pillow. She stares across the room into nothingness.

He opens his door wide and goes out to the courtyard where he has a jar in which he stores his precious copy of a scripture scroll. He opens the lid, places the scroll on his work table, and rolls through it. Rolling. Searching.

“I know it’s in here.”

Mary now watches him from their doorway.

“How could God have chosen me, Joseph? I’m not strong enough to bear the insults.” Mary stares up into a few stars appearing in the early evening sky.

“What will it be like after he is born? It can only be worse. What am I going to do, Joseph? Maybe God made a mistake.”

“No, Mary. I found it. Here it is.”

Joseph looks over at his little bride, his very pregnant little bride. “You and I are in training. So we can help him.”

“Help him do what?”

“I’ve been reading from that prophet who said you would be a virgin when you conceived him—Isaiah. Listen to this.” Joseph rolls the scroll in place, puts it under one arm, and leads Mary by the hand back inside where they return to the bench. He puts the scroll in his lap, leans Mary’s head over on his shoulder, and holds her close as he reads.

“We loathed him and rebuffed him. Full of anguish, steeped in heartache. We turned our backs on him and refused to speak to him whenever he came near. No one liked him or wanted to be around him.”

Carefully putting the scroll under the bench, Joseph turns slightly and holds Mary’s head so he can look into her eyes once more.

“Don’t you see? It’s going to be like this all his life. We must be ready. We must learn how to handle the taunts ourselves so we can teach him how to.”

“So, what are we supposed to do, Joseph? Do we report the people who threw the brick over our wall to the congregation at the synagogue? Do we try to avoid them? Do we try to prove God is on our side?”

The distortions in her gentle face return and tears slip down uncontrollably. Joseph groans from his own fountain of agony.

She cries aloud. Out of control. She stands and walks back out to the courtyard, shaking her head, hoping it will all go away—the taunts.

“What are we supposed to do, Joseph?” she cries, her head in her hands. “What are we supposed to do?”

Silence. Joseph is reading again. “There has to be an answer to her question,” he mumbles. He finds it.

“Shhhh,” he says, getting up and walking out to her. “This is what we are to do. It is right here. ‘He was persecuted and tormented. Yet he never spoke out.’”

Joseph reads a little further silently. He decides not to read it to Mary. She is not ready for it. The part where he will be executed someday. Joseph does not like what he is reading. Surely he can protect God’s Son better than that. Can I change the course of history? The providence of God?

He closes his mind to the whole thing and turns his attentions back to his little wife. He sets down the scroll and embraces her once more. They rock back and forth like a whisper in the wind.

“Nothing? We can’t say anything back?” Mary groans, looking up into her husband’s strained eyes.

“Don’t argue with them,” Joseph explains as tenderly as his masculine being can. “They’re going to do what they want regardless of what we say.”

Indeed, through the following weeks, the insults on the other side of their closed gate do come. But gradually the young people learn to handle them. As they do, the insults decrease. The effectiveness is declining too much.

The two continue to go to town every morning to shop for food. Sometimes more often.

“Keep your head high, Mary,” Joseph whispers to her. “Come on! Smile! Hold that head up! Walk tall!”

_____

Mary is now nine months pregnant.

One day, Joseph comes home, slams the gate shut.

“Caesar has ordered everyone to go to the town where their ancestors settled when they first came to this country.” He calls out.

Mary opens the door, holding a baby blanket in her hand.

“We will all be accounted for in this nation-wide census, and then taxed accordingly. What next?”

Mary puts one hand on her abdomen and another on her lower back. “I can’t go. Bethlehem is a week away, Joseph. It’s impossible. I’m due any day. What are we going to do?”

“You have to go. Everyone in the country has to.” He runs a hand through his black hair and paces. “They’ll fine me if you don’t. And if I can’t pay the fine, they’ll put me in jail until I do. Then you’ll be without anyone—anyone meaning me.”

“Oh, God.” Mary lifts up her eyes to the sky. “Do something! Nothing can happen to my baby—to your baby. Please, God, do something.”

“We’ve got to talk to Jehovah God about it right now.”

He takes Mary into his arms, tries to slow down his breathing, and raises his eyes.

“Oh, Lord Jehovah God. We come to you as the ones you have chosen to take care of your baby. We’re only human. We can’t guarantee his safety on a trip like this. It will be too hard on Mary. Please make the government change its mind, or at least make exceptions for the sick. We pray this with…”

Mary tenderly interrupts before the prayer is ended. “…Lord, if you could just make the baby come early, that would be okay. Could you let little Jesus come early? Please?”

Mary is now crying.

“It will be okay, Mary. God will find a way for you to not have to go. Just you watch.”

Joseph lifts her chin, kisses the end of her nose, and smiles comfortingly. She smiles through glistening tears.”

_____

“Nothing’s working, Mary,” he confesses coming through the door to their residence. “I’ve tried everything. I can’t even get the tax collectors to talk to me.

Sitting on the side of their bed, he lowers his head, and puts his hands over it. He stands, walks over to their little window facing the street, and looks up at the sky.

“Nazareth isn’t that old,” Joseph explains. “So the town is nearly empty with people heading out to their ancestral towns. Next time we go out to the market for food, well, we won’t be able to hide in the crowd like we used to.”

He turns and looks again at Mary. “There are more Roman legionnaires and Herodian soldiers on the streets than ever. The tax people are threatening to have me arrested.”

_____

Mary continues to not have birth pains. Taking long walks around the block every morning with Joseph aren’t helping. Taking various oils isn’t working. Nothing is working. What has gone wrong? Doesn’t God hear prayers?

Mary and Joseph are eating their evening meal. It is a week after Joseph has received the ultimatum from the tax people.

“We can’t afford the fine, Joseph,” Mary says. “And I can’t let you go to jail because of me. The last caravan out of town is leaving tomorrow morning. We can’t wait any longer. We have to go.”

Joseph throws down his bread. “No, Mary. I can’t let you do this.”

“I’ll be okay.”

“This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, Mary. I’m supposed to take care of you and the baby. How can I on the road?”

“I promise you, Joseph. The baby and I will be okay. Really.”

  • On a Road Between the Provinces of Galilee and Judea

 The trip is long. The swelling group of travelers makes its way across the plains, over the streams, up and down the hills and around the mountains. Roman patrols are doubled.

In the evenings, the group stops and makes camp. The inns are all full with other travelers. Together in their bedroll, they sleep. At first sleep is sporadic until they can relax. Sometimes they pray a little. Sometimes they giggle or whisper sweet nothings, or cry a little. One day. Two days. Three long, long days.

God looks down on the insignificant couple as Joseph strides and stumbles his way down the sometimes rocky roads, leading Mary and her donkey, one couple of many on the highway.

God is satisfied. They have what it takes. They’ll do fine. Everything’s going along just as planned—planned hundreds of years earlier. God thinks about explaining it to them outright but decides not to. They’ll understand for themselves soon enough.

  •  Bethlehem, Province of Judea

 The words Joseph and Mary thought they’d never hear.

“There it is on that hill, folks,” the caravan leader announces. “Everyone needing to stop in Bethlehem, we’ll be there in a couple hours. Don’t forget to take your belongings when you leave.”

The sight of their ancestral home, the home where the great King David once grew up, gives them renewed energy.

The caravan stops to rest outside the city. Mary and Joseph are the last to leave the group. Mary’s birth pains have just begun.

“Hang on a little longer, Mary. We made it this far. Jehovah God is surely with us.” Joseph smiles at her, but his gut is churning.

The two make their way several hundred yards to the city gate. Joseph leads their donkey to a hitching ring along the wall. He takes out his water skin, gives Mary a drink, pours some water in a bowl attached to the saddle, and gives some to the animal.

“Stay here, Mary,” Joseph says as he helps her off their donkey. “I’ll go on into town and line up an inn for us.”

He helps her settle on the saddle blanket where she can lean back against the city wall. “I’ll be right back, Mary,” he promises. He only hopes he can keep that promise.

An hour later, Joseph walks back out through the city gates and toward his young wife. Mary is lying down with their tote of clothing under her head. She looks so little and helpless.

Joseph can hardly bear to tell her the news. He hits his fist on the wall above her and stares at the empty sky.

Without looking up, she whispers, “Don’t say any-thing. Just sit here with me, Joseph.”

He sits down on the barren ground next to Mary and places his head next to hers. He hears her groan and his heart pain mingles with it.

I’ve got to think this through. There has to be a way.

A Herodian soldier on patrol walks up. “You can’t stay here, folks,” he says gruffly. “You’re holding up traffic. I’ll be forced to have you arrested if you don’t move along.”

As Joseph stands, he objects. “But don’t you see, my wife’s about to have a baby?”

Now eye to eye, the soldier counterattacks. “Sorry. This isn’t a hospitium. Move along, sir. Sorry, young man.”

The soldier marches off, but not very far. He turns, and locks eyes once again with Joseph.

Mary stirs. “I can do it. Just help me up.”

Slowly the couple with the bundle now slung over Joseph’s shoulder, and the bundle in Mary’s little womb leave the city wall with Mary on their donkey clinging to its mane. The sun is about down. They begin to walk. Walk the streets. They are homeless.

They pass the market by the gate and turn in direction of homes. Slowly they walk, Joseph puts the donkey’s reins between his teeth so he can use both arms to steady Mary on its back.

They pass a man, Joseph hands the reins to Mary, and they stop. He turns and calls after the man.

“Sir, my wife is about to have a baby. Could we stay in your home tonight? I’ve got money. I can pay you.”

“Sorry. I don’t live here myself. We just barely found a place ourselves. We’re sharing a room with two other couples, on the condition we put our children in the bed roll with us. Sorry.” He walks on down the narrow street.

Crowds everywhere bumping into each other. Out-of-town people here for this needless census and taxing. Trying to go into overcrowded taverns to eat. Sitting in the city square with baskets of food. Squatting in deserted doorways with small loaves of bread or dried meat or not-so-fresh fruit trying to assuage their hunger. Some laughing and making the most of it. Some tussling with restless children. Some just meandering.

“Sir, my wife’s about to have a baby. Please, are there any places left?” I must not give up.

The stranger just hurries on.

Half an hour later, Joseph helps Mary down off the donkey and helps her sit on the saddle blanket on the street again. She is against the wall making up the outside of someone’s home. He walks up to the gate and knocks. “Please, my wife’s about to have a baby. Do you have any room for us?”

“We’ve got people sleeping in every spot. There’s no space left. Try next door.”

“Ma’am, my wife’s about to have a baby. Please, do you have any room left for us? We’re desperate.”

“Sorry. Too bad, too. It’s going to be a chilly night.”

Joseph walks back down the street where he had left Mary and looks up into the sky. A star is beginning to shine unusually bright. He’s grateful for it, as it helps light up the darkening street. He looks at it and prays.

“Please, Jehovah God. Why is this happening? You’ve got to help us.”

He goes back to the wall where he had left Mary. She is trying bravely not to scream. People are passing by unconcerned, unnoticing, busy, busy. Even the Roman legionnaires and Herodian soldiers.

Joseph kneels by her side. He realizes by Mary’s muffled screams that the pains are getting worse and closer together.

“Don’t they realize what’s going on? This is the Son of God they’re all rejecting.”

“You didn’t tell them that, did you, Joseph?” Mary manages.

“No, of course not. They’d think I was a lunatic, and I’d never find us a place.”

He hesitates to say it but does anyway. “It’s not supposed to be this way, Mary. This baby is supposed to rule our country. He should have been born in Jerusalem. You should have given birth in the palace. There should have been an honor guard outside the door.”

“You know, it doesn’t have to be a house,” she responds. People have stables.”

“Be right back!” Joseph announces, and bounds off again.

He hurries up to a nearby house and knocks once again on the gate.

“Young man, I told you a moment ago we have no room left. We just can’t help you. Quit coming here.”

The gate starts to close, but Joseph puts his foot in the way. “Your stable, sir. We’ll take your stable. Here. I’ve got payment in full for one night.” He shows the coins in his hand.

“You’ve got to be out of your mind, young man. It’s dirty and smelly in there.”

“We’ll take it! It’s fine. Just fine.”

Joseph shoves his money at the reluctant and puzzled man in the gateway.

“Young people! What’ll they do next?” the home owner mutters as he jingles the money in his hands. “Well, there is a lamp out there hanging from the peg by the entrance. And there may be an old blanket I used awhile back for a sick calf. Maybe you can do something with that.”

“Yes, sir! Thank you, sir,” he says walking backward a few steps, then turning to run.

“Okay, Mary. We’ve got a place!” he grins. “Just wait here one more moment. I’ve got to go arrange things for you.”

“Ohhh!” she cries out, no longer looking around to see if anyone has heard her. A few on the side of the street nearby turn and stare at her in the darkened dusk, shrug their shoulders at her, then turn away in the unconcern of forgetfulness.

Moments later, Joseph is back.

“All right now, Mary. You don’t even have to walk. I found a small cart, and you’re going for a ride.”

“Oh, Joseph, you’re out of your mind,” she laughs amidst the pain.

He carefully picks her up and gently places the mother of God’s Son into the cart.

“And away we go!” he shouts, pulling it himself.

“Joseph, don’t you drop me!” she giggles.

The stable door is open. He rolls her in and closes the door.

He has cleared out an empty stall and filled it with fresh straw. Again Joseph carefully bends down, picks up his little wife, and moves her carefully to the floor. Then he takes a smelly blanket off a peg on the wall.

With Mary sufficiently covered with the blanket, Joseph sits on the cold dirt floor to wait. Cold, cold ground. Coldness in the air. Coldhearted people around them. But then, they just don’t understand.

Warmth. The warmth of human love. The warmth of divine love. Warmth infiltrating, permeating, saturating. Warmth such as has never been felt before.

“Ahhhhhhh!” Mary screams. “It hurts, Joseph. It hurts!”

She squeezes Joseph’s hand until it turns white.

“That’s fine, Mary. You’re doing just fine.”

“Ahhhhhh!”

“Breathe! Breathe, Mary, just like your mother told you. Like Aunt Elizabeth did.  Breathe!”

Come, Lord Jesus.

“Ahhhhhh!”

Mary’s perspiring. Joseph’s perspiring. Perhaps even God’s perspiring.

“Come on, Mary. You can do it. You’re almost in the final stretch.”

“This isn’t a chariot race, Joseph!” she gently chides unexpectedly.

“That’s good, Mary. Keep up your sense of humor. Keep a positive attitude. That’s good.”

Yes, come to us, precious Savior.

“Ahhhhhh!”

“That’s right! That’s right!”

You’re closer to us now. Keep coming, Lord Jesus.

“Ahhhhh!”

“He’s coming. He’s coming, Mary. Keep pushing!”

Yes, it’s hard. But please keep coming to our world.

“Ahhhhh!”

Joseph cradles the baby’s head in his hand.

“Just a little more, now. A little more, Mary.”

We need you, Lord Jesus. We desperately need you.

“Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh! Ahhhhh!”

“He’s out. He’s born. Jesus, the God-Man is born!”

Mary slumps back in exhaustion. Joseph cuts the cord and ties it, just the way he’d heard things were done. Then he holds the slippery baby up to Mary, gently sets him in her arms and stares.

Tears return to her eyes, but now they are tears of joy and satisfaction. Joseph’s big rough hands are under hers to steady them.

Then he remembers his clean robe in their tote. Joseph pulls it out, lays the Son of God on his robe and folds it around him.

“The swaddling bands, Joseph. I brought swaddling bands along. Finish wrapping him in that.”

Joseph pulls everything out of their tote, finds the bands, wraps the baby’s arms, legs, and body with it, and hands him again to his mother.

The young man squats in the floor next to the mother and baby. All is now quiet.

_____

But in heaven, Jehovah God rises from his throne, raises his holy hand in triumph and shouts “Yes!” A yes that resounds through the universe and beyond. The angels pat each other on the back and burst out in a song of triumph that shoots through the heavens and slides down to the countryside outside of the little town of Bethlehem.

“Light the light! Light the light!”

Suddenly the angels begin to glow. Brighter and brighter. Ready for their descent. Ready for their appearance. Ready for the moment of glory.

Silence. Divine silence. Wonder. Awe. Overwhelming astonishment. Overpowering love.

_____

An insignificant couple. A dirty stable. Smelly. Dingy lighting. Cobwebs.

“Now what happens?” Joseph whispers.

“Well,” Mary replies hesitatingly. “He looks pretty sleepy.”

“Do you think he’ll start talking right away? How fast will he grow? He’s God’s Son, you know. He can do anything.” Joseph’s heart is about to burst with pride.

“We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”

Mary closes her eyes, then opens them again and snickers. “Wonder if he’ll wake up after a while and say, ’Mother, I’m ready for my milk’. “

Joseph snickers too.

He stays awake awhile and watches his wife and baby sleep a now restful sleep. They will have lowly visitors in a few hours, then fall back to sleep.

_____

It is daylight now. The hinges on the stable door creak. Joseph is just returning.

“I tried to pay our taxes, but they insist on seeing you and the baby too for census purposes. They agreed to let you wait a day and check in tomorrow. I bought another scripture scroll while I was out. Just a small one. Micah.”

Joseph spends the next day reading and searching the scroll of the prophet he had just brought. Searching for more prophesies about the Son of God, the Savior, lying beside his Mary.

“Listen to this, Sweetheart! This was predicted by Micah. You won’t believe it! ‘Bethlehem in the province of Judea, you are just a small Judean town, but you will be the birthplace of my King who has been alive since before time.’”

He takes baby Jesus’ little fist into his big rough hand and watches him sleep.

“You mean little Jesus was supposed to be born in Bethlehem all along?” Mary responds.

Joseph grins and shakes his head. “What a time God had getting us here! We fought it all the way!”

Census completed and taxes paid, the young couple wonders what to do.

“Well, if Jesus was supposed to be born in Bethlehem, maybe he’s supposed to grow up here,” Joseph surmises.

“People are beginning to go home now. I’m going to go out and find some work. After the mess people made of the town while here, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble.”

Joseph is back to his normal take-charge self. Mary smiles in approval.

“Besides, we won’t have to put up with the taunts here,” he adds.

Everything works out as planned. The young couple with their divine baby move into the one-room house Joseph had left behind and turned into a sheep pen when he had moved to Nazareth.

Joseph insists on going shopping with Mary, though. He walks beside her and “their” baby. He walks proudly.

Often he grins at the passersby who only glance briefly his way, fleetingly wondering why he is grinning so widely. They do not hear that he is shouting silently to them all, He’s the Son of God, you know! He’s going to save you some day!

Yes, indeed, Joseph is walking tall.

2 thoughts on “They Rocked the Cradle that Rocked the World ~ chap. 4

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