The Birth of Christ
by Leslie Crouse
Mary could hardly breath with each pain, but when Joseph and the innkeeper, Hananiah, ushered her into the stable it was like walking into the arms of an old friend. Every smell warmed and comforted. The fresh hay. The soft sounds of the sheep.
Hananiah gave them some fresh blankets and brought water. Then he sent his servant to find the midwife. Mary eased herself down as Joseph prepared a place for her. They had both silently prayed the pains would stop, but they knew it was not to be. Joseph did not understand why God would allow His Son to be born in a stable. It did not seem right to Joseph.
To Mary, it was perfect. The stable had always been her secret place she went to pray. It was where Joseph had given her a manger as a betrothal gift. Where the angel had delivered a life-changing message. Where she had taken refuge when the Nazareth gossips were particularly hurtful. For her, being here in a stable on the most important day of her life was like fingerprints of the love of God.
Joseph paced. Helpless! Mary was in the throws of childbirth and had asked him to turn his back. She was not ready for his help in that department yet. To occupy his mind through every groan, he did what he did best. He built.
He found some tools in the stable and began shaping a piece of scrap wood. At first, he did not know what he was building. But as it took shape he smiled. A manger. The token of their memories together and his love for her. Now, a souvenir for Jesus. One day Joseph would say, “Son, on the night you were born there was no room in the inn. So, this manger was the bed I made for you.”
Before he knew it, a baby cried. He whipped around, forgetting her privacy. He rushed over and picked up the baby boy. So tiny! He handed the baby to Mary for warmth. Looking Joseph wondered, Did they have no cloths to wrap him in?
At that very moment, Hananiah’s wife, Evie, came in with an armload of pristine cloths. Joseph looked up at her and practically attacked her with his pleading for help. He did not know how to do this! Evie smiled at him and made quick work of a swaddle.
He noticed Mary was exhausted. She had fallen back into the hay and looked as if she could barely keeping her eyes open. Hananiah came in too, carrying soup, hot water and more blankets. There were several looks flashing between them. Joseph had not been married long, but he could pick up on marital friction. He just hoped they were not the cause of it.
Joseph handed Jesus over to the woman who could conquer a swaddle. He was not sure what happened, but he could only describe it as a miracle. The change that came over her face. And Hananiah was laughing and crying! What was happening?
Joseph looked back at Mary. Confused and seeking an answer as much as giving them privacy. Mary smiled and laid her head on his shoulder.
Mary was so very tired. Birth was… carnal. And while this birth had been a miracle, she had been so caught up in the “doing” of it that she had missed the wonder of it. She had tried to remember all she had learned from the midwife. What position to be in. How to breathe. Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Where were the feelings everyone talked about? Right now, all she felt was residual physical pain and relief that Jesus was healthy and strong.
She watched the scene in front of her though. The look on Joseph’s face as he held Jesus for the first time. His hair wild from the stress.
Evie as she swaddled Jesus and held him. Then, Hananiah as he began weeping an laughing. And she knew. Jesus would indeed heal this broken world. One heart at a time.
Joseph walked over to her with a question in his eyes. “His first healing.” Mary whispered. Joseph looked again at the couple and smiled his agreement. Yes, Jesus was her son and he would heal the brokenness of humanity.
Healing meant many things. Spiritual. Physical. Emotional. And at this moment, God was making this couple whole.
Herod sat on his throne smiling like a cat. “More wine!” He yelled from his dais at the front of the room, full of feasting and debauched celebration. His people. He thought again on the chronicles that had been read to him late last night. All his achievements. He was the Great King Herod. He had put down rebellions. Earned the right to rule Judea. Octavian and Antony had given him this territory, but it was his own cunning that had conquered it.
He had squashed the Maccabean rebellion and publicly executed the last of the Maccabean priestly line. The last high priest had been but a child, but Herod would do it again in a heartbeat. Fear made people pliable. Herod’s lips curled in an arrogant smirk as he surveyed the puppets in front of him. Judea is mine.
Belial slithered from one side of Herod’s throne to the other stoking the flames of pride. Hissing a satisfied chuckle, he continued his work here. Then, when Jesus was declared Messiah, he would unleash the Darkness that was growing in power here at Herod’s palace.