As the sun came up over the horizon, she knew that today was the day. She’d tried to dismiss it, but as the pains got stronger and the heavens seemed to swell, she couldn’t mistake what was happening. Even the donkey beneath her seemed to be excited and hard to still.
Joseph was worried. She could see it on his face. This was all new to him, and as much as mama had tried to prepare her for this day, and the many talks she’d had with Elizabeth, she was afraid, too. What if something went wrong? What if there were complications? Midwives could be hard to come by on short notice, what if she had to deliver on her own?
As they entered Bethlehem, the rich history of the town, brought her a smile. She thought of the beautiful Rachel, Israel’s favorite wife, this was her resting place. Did she know that this was the place God had chosen to bring forth His child? His Child. Even as she thought it, it was never common to pronounce. Everyday as her stomach had swollen with life, the words of the angel, became stronger and the meaning greater. As if on cue, the baby within her rolled with expectation.
The sun was beginning to dip and the night air was getting colder. Joseph had been turned away at every inn. There was no room, especially for a poor carpenter and his young pregnant wife. She tried not to get anxious, no inn meant no shelter and likely no help. She whispered a prayer to God, “This is your child. Provide a place fit for Him. A place where we can rest, and God of heaven, please, let me find help.” Joseph looked at her, “This is the last one.” She smiled to hide her greatest fear and nodded, “And here we will find favor.” Joseph returned her smile, “So young and yet so wise, my love.”
She waited for what seemed like hours. Each pain intensified, and she wondered if she might try to get off the donkey if for just a minute to stretch her legs and possibly relieve the cramping. Just as she was gathering the strength to do just that, Joseph appeared, nervous but relieved. “I’ve found a place.” Mary smiled with delight even as another pang hit. His face dropped, “It’s in the stable.” A stable? He couldn’t be serious? The child of God that came to save His people couldn’t be born in a stable! She looked at him; this was no time to joke. He wasn’t smiling. She choked down disappointment, and forced a smile, “It’s going to be the most famous stable in the world.” Joseph marveled at her strength, “Little do they know,” he whispered with a wink.
She looked around her as she lay waiting for the midwife. “God,” she prayed, “You are in control. You have a beautiful plan, and You will change the world forever with this night. May it be to me as You have promised.” Another pang hit, and she bit down. This would not be easy, but it would be worth it, more so than any delivery in the world. “Joseph?” She moaned. “I’m here, Mary.” She resisted the urge to bear down, following the advice of her mama. “Joseph, thank you.” He wet the cloth that he held and placed it on her head, “For this fine stable?” he teased. “No,” she said with sincerity, “for believing me, for marrying me, and for taking this journey with me.” He hushed her, “What fool would miss out on this?” She smiled and reached up to hold the hand that bathed her forehead, “I love you.” Joseph choked back emotion and replied, “And my sweet Mary, I love you.”
The midwife had arrived just at the point when there was no holding back. With each beckoning of a push, the world seemed to grow brighter. Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed the bright star that had appeared in the east, just in view of the only window in the stable. Everyone in Bethlehem had remarked at its brightness, never had they seen such a light. The young mother seemed fixed on it and seemed to draw strength with each contraction. In good time, the baby was in her arms. She had delivered hundreds of babies but this one seemed to glow with life. He was a perfectly healthy baby boy she announced as she handed him over to the girl. The mother almost seemed amazed to touch Him, and when the midwife pushed Him to her breast, she stopped her to take in His face. Even the father was in awe. After so many years of this, she no longer asked questions, but nothing seemed normal about this pair. Such a peace that filled the air, and a love like no other, she would never forget this birth.
After the baby suckled, Mary watched Him sleep. There were no words to describe all that she was feeling. Joy, love, amazement, and fear. He was here! The Christ child, the Savior of the world, lay resting in her feeble arms, dependent on her! She looked at Joseph and noticed those same fears echoing in his eyes, what if they failed? What if He didn’t need them? What if all the prophesies of death and hatred were true? What if all of that was directed at this child? How could they ever protect Him? A tear escaped her eyes, “What if…?” she started. But even as she spoke it, the bright light emanating from the window fell across all three of them and warmed them, and in it’s light there was peace and love and the words of God took on a melody that seemed to echo to the hills, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
Mary and Joseph lay side by side, smiling and forgetting all together the stench of where they were. Even the cattle seemed mesmerized by the baby, each leaning in for a closer look. After they had offered prayers and praises for this baby they had been given, the young couple started to drift off to sleep, but Mary, she longed to do one last thing. “Joseph?” she whispered not wanting to wake the baby. “Mmhmm,” he mumbled. “Do you think I can kiss His face?” He rolled over almost asleep, “Of course, He’s a baby.” Her heart jumped! This was the moment that she had dreamed of, the moment that for years she had longed for, her moment with God in the form of a baby, finally she could express her love for Him! She cuddled His small, fragile frame, and rested His face close to hers. She nuzzled His nose and felt Him squirm, then, rubbing her lips together to make sure they were warm, she kissed the face of God. And, Joseph would deny it, but she would always remember His first smile.